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A Bunnings worker has penned a powerful article aimed at the NSW government, with a short and sharp message: "Shut us down."
The anonymous worker, who refers to the Eastgardens store in Sydney within the piece, called for doors to be closed to the public and to instead offer Click and Collect services only.
"Dozens of Bunnings stores across New South Wales have been listed as COVID-19 Delta variant exposure sites. Many of these have been exposure sites multiple times," the worker wrote.
"Every time we come in to work, our health—our lives—are put at risk. It’s a risk of which many of us are entirely aware, but it’s one that we have no option but to take. As one worker said: 'State and national managers can talk all they want about how we’re all in this together, but we’re the ones on the floor, on the front lines, working in unsafe conditions'."
The author likened Bunnings staff to "sacrificial lambs" being offered up "to record high sales and ever-increasing Wesfarmer share prices".
"It’s a crime that the NSW government refuses to close down a number of retailers to the public, like Bunnings, Officeworks, and apparently even the Reject Shop."
Hundreds support Bunnings workers in petition
The worker pointed to a petition listing their demands, which has so far garnered over 700 signatures.
It comes as NSW hit a new milestone, with 291 new Covid cases reported on Friday.
The petition highlights the fact that 29 Covid exposures occurred in Bunnings stores across the state since the latest outbreak was identified back in June this year.
"Workers are at risk every time they come into the store while the outbreak continues," the petition says.
"Many stores are still filled with groups browsing for long periods of time, putting workers and other customers at risk. Team members with pre-existing health conditions being stood down is evidence of this."
Questions over whether Bunnings is 'essential'
Essential retail is permitted to remain open amid the lockdown, but this week, there has been questions as to why Bunnings is allowed to operate.
When asked at a press conference, Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to comment on why Bunnings is still open.
On its website, Bunnings said stores in the lockdown areas remain open as they are "classified as critical".
"We understand the concerns that have been raised and we absolutely know how challenging it is for everyone in Sydney, including our team," Bunnings Head of Stores Matt Tyler said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia.
"Our NSW stores are classified as critical and our teams across Sydney are doing a phenomenal job ensuring customers and tradespeople have access to the product they need to complete emergency repairs and maintenance around homes.
"They continue to show our customers, the community and each other a huge amount of care and we’re doing everything we can to support them."
"Bunnings is also providing any vulnerable team with special paid leave during this time and paid leave for team who are required to isolate," Mr Tyler said.
Calls for less face-to-face interaction
The petition has listed demands which would see staff being further supported during the outbreak.
The petition calls for all "high-risk" team members being stood down on full pay and for casual workers to be supported.
"Casual team members should be supported, with regular working hours being maintained in Click & Collect services and where this is impossible, any required assistance in accessing government payments be provided," the petition says.
It also calls for limiting face-to-face interactions.
"Departments should move into supporting trade and Click & Collect services, dividing work in these areas in a fair and safe way," it says.
The petition hopes the NSW Government and Bunnings management will close in-store trading and instead only allow for Click & Collect, similar to what has happened in Victorian stores.
"Following the latest Victorian Government announcement, from Friday 6 August, our stores in Victoria remain open for trade customers only," Bunnings says on its website.
"During this time our retail customers can still purchase the items they need online, using Bunnings’ Click & Deliver or contactless Drive & Collect service, where products can be ordered online and collected from Bunnings’ car parks, without customers needing to get out of their car."
Mr Tyler asked customers to shop online "whenever possible", using the Click & Collect or Drive & Collect services.
"We have seen a significant uptake in these option throughout the lockdown period," he said.
'Not controlling the spread'
At the time of publication, almost 750 people have signed the petition, several calling for changes within the store amid the outbreak.
"My daughter and her co-workers are being forced into unsafe working conditions, all for profit. Click and collect takes the browsers out," one person said.
"This is not controlling the spread! Close all retail, make click and collect only! Create a personal shopper booking system for those who can't use online."
People said it was "outrageous" Bunnings was allowed to remain open to the public during the lockdown.
"It's a pandemic and we are meant to be in a lockdown," someone said.
"It's a joke that the supposed leaders are passing on the blame to people not doing the right thing. Take the option out of their hands then."
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