No One Deserves a Serve
By Chris Gazenbeek, State Secretary
Leading up to Christmas last year, the SDA launched a successful national campaign ‘No One Deserves a Serve’ to try to stop the abuse and violence towards retail and fast food workers by customers.
The massive campaign included television, radio, digital and outdoor advertising. Our research was based on listening to the stories of 6,000 retail and fast food workers. It is appalling that over 85% of them had experienced abuse from customers at work.
The campaign was well received by members because all they want to do is go to work, do their job, be safe at work, go home and enjoy their lives. Our research found that:
- 14% of respondents have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer in the last 12 months.
- 35% were subjected to verbal abuse every week.
- 49% have experienced physical violence from a customer.
- 54% of respondents said they had felt threatened by a customer 1-2 times in the last 12 months.
- 62% reported that the incidents of customer abuse or violence involved behaviour by a customer that was sexual in nature.
- 7% of respondents said customer abuse had been directed to them online.
- 31% said customer abuse was generally perpetrated by both male and female customers.
There is no excuse for the increasing amount of physical and verbal abuse that customers are directing at retail and fast food staff. Going to work every day knowing you will probably be abused is just wrong. That’s the reality for thousands of Australian retail and fast food workers and it’s completely unacceptable. Retail and fast food workers have told us they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs. All workers have the right to be able to do their job in a safe environment.
Retail worker Lawrence said customer abuse was a common experience for him.
“I’ve had people say things like ‘I’ll meet you out the front’ threatening to fight me. One customer became angry at me and said, I do MMA (mixed martial arts), I could bash you up”.
“I’ve witnessed a colleague get pulled over the counter by an angry customer”.
“Just a couple of weeks ago I had a customer become extremely irate at me because we had sold out of the item he wanted. He was blaming me and yelling that it was my fault”.
The fact is, the customer is not always right. Abusing retail and fast food workers is wrong. No-one deserves a serve while they are just trying to do their job.
During the campaign, the SDA called on customers to check their behaviour before they reached the registers.
Of course, the major public awareness campaign is only the beginning. In addition, we need to change public attitudes and behaviour. As such:
The SDA is committed to stopping customer abuse and violence in the retail and fast food industries and building better protections for workers.
The SDA is looking to drive industry changes to ensure that customers can’t continue this behaviour and build better protections for retail and fast food workers.
The SDA will be holding a national industry round-table in March 2018 to progress the issue and to develop practical workplace solutions to protect workers.
Members will continue to be advised on this extremely important real world issue.
In the meantime, we encourage retail and fast food workers to report all incidents of customer abuse and violence at work.
If you need advice or support, please phone or email the union office.