Workplace Safety: Retail Workers

27 November 2023

Well, the only thing which won't cost any of us a cent at the shops this Christmas is treating retail workers and fast food workers with respect. It costs absolutely nothing to be kind, but we know too many of Australia's retail and fast food workers are absolutely copping it at work. A national survey by the SDA of over 4,600 retail and fast food workers has shown in the past year 87 per cent of workers have experienced verbal abuse and 12½ per cent have experienced physical violence from customers.

It is young women who are subjected to this treatment the most, with over 90 per cent of 18-to-35-year-old women surveyed reporting they have experienced verbal abuse.

The survey found that across retail and fast food, the major causes of abuse were inadequate staffing levels, customer wait times, theft and being required to enforce store protocols. Throughout this survey we heard cases of workers being choked or punched, attempted assaults in the workplace, workers being called names, workers being shoved, workers leaving their workplaces in tears, shaken and scarred because of the abuse they had experienced, all in the name of doing their jobs. It is not acceptable.

As we head into the Christmas period with all the joy and the rest that brings for many of us, but where stress and tension can run high too, if we don't call it out, it will just get worse. I stand with the SDA in doing just that. Our retail and fast-food workers are essential workers. They deserve our respect. There is absolutely no place for the abuse or harassment of retail workers. No-one deserves a serve. As we head into the shops this Christmas season we must remember that kindness costs absolutely nothing.