Industry hits back on customer abuse

The Shop, Distribution and Allied Employees Association (SDA) recently held the second roundtable tackling the customer abuse epidemic in retail and fast food outlets.

“Any type of abuse on the job is completely unacceptable, and when you have 85 per cent of retail staff reporting they have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer and 14 per cent reporting physical violence – you know we’ve got an epidemic on our hands,” SDA National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer said.

Who is sitting at the roundtable?

The National Customer Abuse & Violence Industry Roundtable brought The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retail Association (NRA) to the meeting, along with major employers, industry peak bodies, NGOs and government organisations.

“By bringing together employers and important stakeholders, we’re aiming to create industry-wide solutions,” Mr Dwyer said.

Raising awareness and reducing the risk

The first roundtable took place in March 2018, and since then a number of movements have been taken into action:

  • Launch of “Don’t Bag Retail Staff” advertising campaign calling out customers in regards to their single-use bag ban frustrations.
  • New SDA fast food specific advertising campaign raising awareness about abuse of fast-food workers.
  • SDA briefing of Federal and State Members of Parliament and Senators about the issue.
  • Meetings with relevant state or territory agencies including police and government safety regulations.

AACS’ response 

Jeff Rogut, CEO at AACS, says this behaviour against people just going about their work is unacceptable.

“There may be a number of reasons for this [behaviour], some of which retailers, and particularly inexperienced ones, may not be able to identify or understand how to possibly de-escalate a situation when it arises,” he said.

AACS have put together a presentation to assist retail staff in identifying the possible causes of aggressive behaviour and how to de-escalate the situation if it is safe to do so.

“Most companies to have training and plans in place to deal with situations and our intention is not to take away from these but to rather add a layer of knowledge which may be useful for employees,” Mr Rogut said.

“At all times people’s safety must come first – employees and customers.

“We are able to offer classroom style training on this topic if required – please contact me at”

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