SDA calls on the retail and fast food industries to sign up to tackle customer abuse epidemic

September 13, 2019 News No One Deserves A Serve

National Industry Roundtable

On Tuesday 30 July 2019, the SDA hosted a second Roundtable with the National Retail Association (NRA) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) to tackle customer abuse in the retail and fast food industries.

The National Customer Abuse and Violence Industry Roundtable brought together a range of organisations to discuss how we can prevent retail and fast food workers from being abused on the job.

The Roundtable heard directly from a panel of SDA members working in retail and fast food about their experiences. The stories shared by Michelle F, Kiran, Michelle H and Christine were powerful and resonated strongly with all the Roundtable participants.

Progress on customer abuse and violence

The SDA conducted research in 2017 and 2018 which revealed the widespread abuse from customers being experienced by both retail and fast food workers.

This year the SDA, in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), has undertaken further research in relation to sexual harassment including harassment perpetrated by customers.

The SDA’s successful ‘No One Deserves a Serve’ campaign was launched in 2017 to raise awareness about the realities of customer abuse.

Since the first Roundtable in March 2018, the SDA, together with industry, has made significant progress towards raising awareness about customer abuse. These measures have included:

  • SDA consultation with employers and the launch of the ‘Don’t Bag Retail Staff’advertising campaign calling on customers not to take out their frustrations on workers arising from the bans on single use plastic bags;
  • Working with employers on their specific policies and training;
  • New SDA fast food specific advertising campaign which raised awareness about abuse of fast food workers;
  • SDA briefing of Federal and State Members of Parliament and Senators about the issue;
  • A literature review on solutions for occupational violence in retail and fast food industries;
  • A NSW based trial, in some KFC and Reject Shop stores, for solutions to tackle customer abuse and violence;
  • Meetings with relevant State and Territory agencies including police and government safety regulators;
  • Partnered with the AHRC for an in-depth retail and fast food industries survey on the prevalence and impact of customer-perpetrated sexual harassment;

The SDA was joined by the NRA and ARA in asking employers and stakeholders to make a commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to customer abuse and violence by signing up to an industry statement by 31 August 2019.

Message from SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer:

“Any type of abuse on the job is completely unacceptable. When you have 85% of retail staff reporting they have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer and 14% reporting they have been subject to physical violence, you know we’ve got an epidemic on our hands.

“Retail and fast food workers have told us that they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs.

“By bringing together employers and important stakeholders, we’re aiming to create industry-wide solutions to this customer abuse epidemic.

“Customer abuse is completely unacceptable and that’s why we’re bringing unions, business and government together to implement ways to stop it.

“It’s encouraging to see such widespread concern and involvement from a range of employers and we hope that once again this translates into a strong set of short-term and long-term solutions to reduce customer abuse and protect retail and fast food workers.

“Copping abuse should not be part of the job. This abuse can severely impact workers’ physical and psychological health and it cannot continue. Everyone has the right to a safe work environment.

“This Roundtable continued the focus on implementing a range of solutions to eliminate the amount of abuse and violence that retail and fast food workers receive from customers.

“I acknowledge every organisation and employer’s support for reducing customer abuse in their workplaces as evidenced by their attendance at the important Roundtable and encourage them to support our push for a zero-tolerance approach towards this behaviour,”