'Putrid' attacks on workers almost double as coughing fine is raised to $5k

·News Reporter
·4-min read

The rate of public transport workers in NSW being spat on has increased about 40 per cent as authorities expand the $5000 fine for coughing and spitting on health workers to include everyone providing an essential service.

Police will now be able to fine people who target all types of workers, not just those in emergency services or healthcare under a ramped up condition on the tough penalty initially introduced on April 9.

“It is putrid, absolutely putrid. There is no excuse for it anyway let alone in the current circumstances. It is disgusting,” Tony Smith, the state secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, told reporters on Sunday.

He said that just last week four separate matters had been brought to him involving workers being deliberately coughed or spat on, including one person having their mouth spat in.

“It is vile and it is disgusting and unacceptable,” he said.

There's been a 40 per cent increase in public transport workers being spat on in March. Source: AAP
There's been a 40 per cent increase in public transport workers being spat on in March. Source: AAP

The retail workers' union said its members had "borne the brunt of a huge upsurge in customer abuse" during the pandemic.

"The reports of supermarket and other retail workers being coughed and spat on over the past weeks are becoming disturbingly common," Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association NSW/ACT Secretary Bernie Smith said in a statement on Sunday.

"These are our neighbours stocking our shelves and manning our cash registers. They are also your friends' sons and daughters, and your colleagues' partner or parent.

"Sometimes we've all just got to step back and remember that we're all in this together."

There have been several reports of supermarket employees being abused by fiery customers amid frustration surrounding the availability of certain products.

A Woolworths worker breaking down in tears drew nationwide attention after an irate customer abused her, while a teen Coles worker was also the target of abuse for not wearing gloves while on shift.

Deliberately infecting someone with COVID-19 and causing them to die carries a maximum penalty of life in prison in every state and territory, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced earlier this month.

He said it was also an offence to cause someone else to fear that they had been deliberately infected with the virus.

The fines will target clashes between customers and supermarket workers, like what is unfolding in this photo. Source: Twitter/@chanitmalfoy
The fines will target clashes between customers and supermarket workers, like what is unfolding in this photo. Source: Twitter/@chanitmalfoy

People protected by new fines include those working in:

  • Supermarkets

  • Convenience stores

  • Butchers

  • Grocers

  • Markets

  • Bottle shops

  • Petrol stations

  • Pharmacies

  • All allied health centres

  • Shopping centres (eateries in food courts permitted to do takeaway only)

  • Hairdressers and barbers

  • Schools

  • Public transport

Dozens of Australians have been handed fines for offences relating to not complying with coronavirus orders, including mandatory quarantine, self isolation and social distancing.

The Berejiklian government also announced on Sunday it was pumping $25 million into fast-tracking statewide coronavirus research and clinical trials and $14 million into its small business advisory program Business Connect.

Nationwide death toll reaches 70

The deaths of three people from the novel coronavirus was confirmed on Saturday.

The latest - of resident at Anglicare's Newmarch House aged care home in Caddens - came amid an outbreak at the facility.

A worker had mild symptoms while attending the facility for six days before testing positive last week.

Ten staff and 20 residents at the western Sydney home now have COVID-19, NSW Health says.

The 93-year-old man Newmarch resident who died on Saturday morning was "already suffering multiple serious health issues", Anglicare Sydney chief executive Grant Millard said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the grieving family through this very distressing time," he said.

Supermarket workers have being targeted by irate customers frustrated at the availability of certain products. Source: AAP
Supermarket workers have being targeted by irate customers frustrated at the availability of certain products. Source: AAP

An 83-year-old Queensland man, who was a passenger of the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship, died in Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

A 58-year-old woman died in Tamworth Hospital and authorities are attempting to trace how she contracted the virus.

Ruby Princess to remain off the NSW coast

Meanwhile, NSW Police say the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which is docked at Port Kembla, is unlikely to leave until next week.

The government is under fire for its handling of the saga and a NSW Police investigation is underway after 2647 passengers were allowed to disembark at Sydney Harbour on March 19.

The ship remains docked with about 1000 passengers and crew on board.

After nine additional positive cases overnight, there are now 162 cases amongst the ship's on-board crew with another 13 in health facilities.

The ship was to depart on Sunday, however, NSW Police assistant commissioner Karen Webb said the chances of that were "remote".

With AAP

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