Retail workers welcome big fines for appalling attacks on essential workers during COVID-19 pandemic

April 27, 2020 Media Releases

Media statement | 27 April 2020

The Queensland Palaszczuk government has today announced tough new measures with its ability to have massive fines issued, if people are found intentionally spitting, coughing or sneezing on workers.
This decision by the Queensland government ensures people who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit on public officials and workers including retail workers or threaten to do so, can be fined up to $13,345 under a new COVID-19 Public Health Direction. They may also face criminal charges.

SDA, the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers, Queensland State Secretary, Chris Gazenbeek said retail and fast food workers have borne the brunt of a huge upsurge in customer abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic and we applaud the tough stance being taken by the Palaszczuk government to protect essential workers.

“Our retail workers, including those working in our supermarkets, have been incredible throughout the coronavirus pandemic, putting themselves in harm’s way in order to ensure the community has access to the essential goods and services we need, but unfortunately they’re being regularly abused and attacked on the job,” Chris Gazenbeek said.

“There has to be zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour being directed at the amazing workers who have been keeping our community going during the COVID-19 crisis, whether it’s retail workers, health workers, police, public transport workers or any other worker.

“It’s disturbing that we’d need a law that stops this kind of disgraceful behaviour, but unfortunately we do.

“Our members have been reporting a huge upsurge in the number of attacks on workers lately. The reports of supermarket and other retail workers being coughed and spat on over the past weeks are becoming disturbingly common.

“These are our neighbours stocking our shelves and manning our cash registers. They are also your friends’ sons and daughters, and your colleagues’ partner or parent. Sometimes we’ve all just got to step back and remember that we’re all in this together.”

“The SDA has been working hard to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect our frontline workers – from making sure social distancing guidelines are being adhered through to pushing for card only payments and ensuring workers have access to hand sanitisers and other personal protective equipment”.

“These penalties announced today will help further protect our workers during these difficult times and we congratulate Premier Palaszczuk, Health Minister Miles, Police Minister Ryan and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Young for ensuring that any forms of abuse or violence against workers will not be tolerated.”

Media contact: Rose Bailey,, 0418781524