Campaign to help stop customer abuse towards Australian workers this Christmas

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IN PHOTO: A worker arranges food packets inside a retail store in Kolkata October 24, 2013.
A worker arranges food packets inside a retail store in Kolkata October 24, 2013. Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Being yelled at or slapped at work is a reality for some Australian fast food and retail workers. It turns out that customers are not always right, and a new campaign now seeks to help stop violence and rage towards workers this Christmas.

The No One Deserves a Serve campaign has been launched by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) following a recent poll of up to 6,000 workers that found over 85 percent was abused by customers. Nearly a quarter of respondents claimed they were subjected to verbal abuse each week while more than a third said they felt threatened. The campaign has been advertised on the internet, television and radio.

Gerard Dwyer, SDA national secretary, recognised that workers were trained to deliver good customer service. However, they are not ready for abuse. He added that there is no excuse for the increasing number of cases of verbal and physical abuse retail and fast food workers faced from customers.

Jodie Sherwell is a retail worker from Melbourne. She said that a customer who abused her said he was prepared to do jail time, Brisbane Times reports. Based on what she could recall, there was only one instance when a customer apologised to her.

The union has heard retail and fast food workers confess that customers swear and yell at them. Some even spit in their faces and threaten them. All these happen when workers are simply doing their jobs.

For Western Sydney retail worker Lawrence, abuse was a common experience at work. He said he had met customers threatening to fight him, saying, “’I’ll meet you out the front.”

Lawrence said customers get angrier as Christmas approaches. One of his customers from some weeks ago had become “extremely irate at” at him. Lawrence was blamed because the item the customer wanted had been sold out. There was even an instance when he witnessed a colleague getting pulled over the counter by a customer.

This Christmas, the SDA is calling on all customers to keep a close look at their behaviour towards workers. A national industry roundtable will be held in March to further discuss the issue and to come up with workplace solutions.

“The fact is, the customer is not always right,” reports Dwyer as saying. He believes no one deserves a serve while he is trying to do his job.

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