Supermarkets band together to call for better treatment of staff

Australia’s biggest supermarkets have come together to tackle the issue of violence against staff as panicked consumers descend on stores.

A joint advertisement campaign signed by Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworths was published in national newspapers on Wednesday thanking Australians for their patience in extraordinary times.

“Through these challenging times, the aim of every Australian supermarket is to provide you and your family with the food and essentials you need,” the joint statement reads, as seen on Coles’ website. 

“That’s why collectively, we want to reassure you that your wellbeing, and that of our teams, will always be our priority.”

But in light of aggressive shopper behaviour toward staff and customers alike, the statement asked Australians to treat their dedicated employees with courtesy and respect. 

“No-one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour.”

The advice comes as shopper behaviour reaches new lows, with a Victorian Woolworths employee assaulted and stabbed while collecting used trolleys yesterday in what police are describing as a “random incident”.

The staff member was airlifted to Alfred Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Videos have also emerged online in recent weeks of customers verbally attacking retail staff and physically attacking each other.

The SDA, the union which represents retail workers, including supermarket workers, has also called on the local community to keep their cool and respect workers during this time.

SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said that reports of workers being abused and harassed are disappointing and unacceptable.

“We understand that many people in our community are worried at present, but we also need to remember that the workers you see at the supermarket and other places are in the same boat as you. We’re all in this together,” Dwyer said.

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

SDA branches across the country have reported significant increases in calls in relation to customer abuse of late.

“No one should be abused simply for doing their job. Sometimes we all just need to be reminded of that,” he added.

Prime minister Scott Morrison echoed these sentiments, calling panic buying “ridiculous” and “un-Australian”.

“On bulk purchasing of supplies. Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis,” Morrison said according to The Guardian.

“That’s not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing.”

Aldi made the decision to alter store trading hours as of Wednesday to allow staff more down time with family and a quiet period to restock and clean the stores.

All stores will now trade from 9:30AM to 7:00PM unless other state and local trading restrictions apply.

The decision was made to give store employees more time to restock shelves with products and be ready for customers; to give employees in the Distribution Centre time to get the stock onto trucks and into stores and to allow thorough cleaning of the store, the retailer said

“We want our employees to take a break and look after themselves and their families,” Aldi added in a statement.

AAP reported that Coles is trying to employ more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers after temporarily suspending its online services this week.

Both Woolworths and Coles introduced a shopping hour specifically for elderly shoppers and people with disability as many have struggled to source popular items of late.

Inside FMCG approached Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworths for comment.

Reporting by Ruth Hogan and Dean Blake.

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