The Secretary’s Report

May 15, 2020 News

by Chris Gazenbeek, SDA State Secretary

The unprecedented outbreak of the Coronavirus is impacting everyone in our community. We all know its origins were in Wuhan in central China yet its devastating impact is now being felt around the world.

The recent bushfires brought out the very best in Australians but sadly, this virus has brought out the worst. Customers have become more abusive, less tolerant and have taken their frustrations out on our hard-working members. We understand this is a distressing time for you and is especially so for our supermarket members. I can assure all members that we have been and will continue to support you.

The situation is ongoing and is changing rapidly and the SDA is doing our very best to ensure that your health and safety at work is our number one priority.

Our highly successful No One Deserves A Serve campaign has highlighted customer abuse over the last 30 months. Given the current circumstances, it has been refreshing to see such companies as Woolworths putting out clear messages directed towards their customers over the PA system. This message clearly states that customers need to respect our team and importantly, this message is being played often. I was also pleased to see a sign in my local Woolworths store which stated:

“Zero tolerance Aggressive and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. Our Team is here to help, not to be hurt.”

Snapshot of the last 3 months

We have been having many discussions with the various companies on a whole range of issues pertaining to the virus Self-isolation

The SDA welcomed announcements that Woolworths including Dan Murphy’s and BWS, Kmart, Big W, Target, Ikea, EG Fuels and Officeworks will pay casual staff for the hours they would have worked if they have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Additional leave is also applicable to permanent part-time and full-time workers. Permanent workers will receive up to an extra two weeks of paid additional leave on top of their current personal leave entitlements should they be required for isolation or an extended period of sickness.

This means permanent workers will need to use their current personal leave entitlements before using the additional leave but will have access to the safety net of a further two weeks should they require it.

The SDA has also called for special paid leave for all workers if they have to self-isolate whether they are a full-time, part-time, casual or contract worker.

10 point Health and Safety Plan

The SDA called on all retail employers to introduce the SDAs 10 point plan. I acknowledge that many companies adopted most of our 10 points and this provided some comfort to our members.

Essential service payment for frontline workers

The SDA has called for a $5 per hour increase for workers as an essential service payment. Our hard-working members are providing an essential service during this pandemic and it is appropriate that they should be fairly compensated by their employers.

I congratulate Costco for paying their employees an extra $3.00 per hour and Woolworths are considering a payment at the end of the financial year which the SDA continues to discuss with the company.

Wage subsidy

The SDA and the ACTU strongly argued for a wage subsidy for all retail workers to protect their income and their jobs. Because of our strong lobbying, the federal government introduced the JobKeeper program.

Fines for abuse

Earlier, I stated that this virus has brought out the very worst in Australians. A concrete example of this is the increased abuse our members have recently copped from abusive and violent customers.

We all have heard the stories and seen the abuse on our TV screens and through social media. As a result, I personally made representation to the Palaczuzuk government to bring in harsh fines which would severely penalise these ‘ferals’ and ‘low-lifes’.

Therefore, I was very pleased when the Palaszczuk government announced on Monday, April 27 that massive fines could be issued if people are found intentionally spitting, coughing or sneezing on essential workers including retail workers.

This decision by the Queensland government ensures people who deliberately cough, sneeze or spit on our members 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.

Once we notified our members through text messages and emails, we were swamped by supportive messages.

Until next time, keep safe.


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