No One Deserves a Serve this Christmas

December 21, 2023 Member News

Chris Gazenbeek

A topic that is always on our minds during the festive season, is the increased customer and violence SDA members are experiencing as a result of the busy and hectic nature of Christmas shopping.

The latest survey performed by the SDA shows there’s still more to be done to combat customer abuse.

87% of retail and fast food workers have experienced verbal abuse and 12.5% have experienced physical violence from customers in the past 12 months – according to the SDA’s latest survey on customer abuse.

In August, the SDA conducted a comprehensive survey of over 4600 workers. This survey focused on their experiences with customer abuse and violence.

From physical violence to verbal abuse and racial-related incidents, this survey has found that levels of customer abuse have not changed significantly since 2021.

While in the past year, the SDA has won stronger protections against customer abuse in QLD, as well as new safety regulations to eliminate these hazards, it is clear that there is still more to be done to protect workers from this threat.

The ongoing prevalence of customer abuse is having a significant impact on the wellbeing of retail and fast food workers, with our survey finding that 63% of workers physical or mental health has been impacted by customer abuse.
Even more alarmingly, only 48% of workers feel safe in their workplaces.

These results paint a clear picture that employers must be doing more to create a safe work environment and implement a zero-tolerance policy.

Our survey found that 70% of workers are actively reporting incidents of customer abuse, which shows the impact that our campaign is having.

In order to effectively prevent and eliminate customer abuse, understanding the underlying causes of customer abuse and taking steps to prevent these causes is key.

Our survey found that across retail and fast food, the major causes of customer abuse are:

  • Inadequate staffing levels
  • Customer wait times
  • Theft
  • Enforcing store protocols

In response to this, SDA members believe that stronger measures need to be taken such as:

  • Clear terms of entry for customers
  • Improved processes for banning customers
  • Increased security
  • Increased staffing

Our next steps

Customer abuse and violence cannot be eliminated overnight.

In November, the SDA lead a national roundtable on customer abuse to raise these new results to the attention of employer and government representatives.

The results of this survey will serve as the blueprint for the next steps of our campaign and our plan to secure stronger protections.


It is with a very heavy heart after almost 29 years of service to the members of the SDA I have resigned my position as State Secretary. I have been appointed as an Industrial Commissioner to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

It has been an honour and a great privilege to represent our members and lead our Queensland team since 2014. I have been blessed to have such a great team and we have achieved so much.

I thank all staff, shop stewards, delegates and members for your hard work, dedication and support over many years.
I know the SDA is in great hands with Justin Power as the incoming State Secretary and very well supported by Tony Stapleton assisting him.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and every success for the future.

All the best and thank you!