Coles, Woolworths shoppers slam horrific abuse: 'They're scared'

·News Reporter
·4-min read

Coles and Woolworths customers have spoken out online calling out the abuse they've witnessed of young staffers trying to enforce Covid check-in and mask rules in front of stores.

In a number of posts recently addressed to the Woolworths and Coles Facebook pages, customers are calling for a change to entry security in response to witnessed non-compliance with QR check-ins and mask mandates as well as aggressive behaviour towards staff members.

“Can the senior management of Woolworths consider not placing 16-year-olds as door monitors for Covid compliance,” wrote one person.

“Might be a good idea for the store managers to be placed there and feel the abuse thrown at these kids by ignorant shoppers.”

A worker controls speaks to a customer at the entrance to a Woolworths store. Source: Getty Images
Customers said they were concerned after witnessing abuse towards team membered stationed at store entries. Source: Getty Images

“Coles needs to put security guards at the entry points to monitor sign in and mask requirements,” posted another customer.

“I suggest that [Covid-19 security procedures] are done by senior staff members or trained security staff who can better diffuse these situations - I want to feel safe as I shop,” wrote a concerned Woolworths customer.

Facebook users are rallying in support of these posts, commenting: “it’s great to see posts recognising the abuse issue.”

The union responsible for retail workers - The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) -has reported that 85 per cent of staffers have suffered abuse including physical violence, threats, and verbal abuse.

Supermarket staffers ‘scared of the abuse'

Further Facebook posts from concerned customers are advocating for Woolworths and Coles to implement tougher procedures for check-in, including removing younger team members for check-in enforcement duties.

“Putting young kids there is not working and they are scared of the abuse they are getting,” wrote one Woolworths customer.

A controller monitors entry outside a Coles store. Source: Getty Images
One customer suggested that security guards should be stationed at store entry points, rather than young staff members. Source: Getty Images

“I see several people without masks or the mask around their neck - I’ve spoken to many staff who have told me they are not allowed to say anything for their own safety,” posted a concerned Coles customer.

As Covid cases continue to grow in the state, SafeWork NSW said inspectors are targeting Woolworths and Coles with compliance checks.

Retail union confirms employee rights

A representative from the SDA retail union has told Yahoo News Australia that the enforcement of Covid-19 rules is not the responsibility of retail workers.

“A retail worker can request a customer check in, but they cannot and should not be asked to enforce such requirement,” the spokesperson said.

“Public Health requirements are valid in promoting greater health and safety for retail workers and the community, but enforcement of Public Health Orders is not the responsibility of retail workers.”

The representative said the SDA is providing support to members who believe they are being required to enforce Public Health Orders.

“[We continue] to challenge individual employers while engaging with employer associations to press the case that enforcement is not the legal responsibility of our members.”

The SDA concluded their statement by encouraging its members to contact them when they are experiencing issues.

“Facebook may well air these issues, but it is not a platform that will fix them.”

Supermarkets take steps to address 'abuse' claims

A spokesperson from Coles has told Yahoo News Australia that they do not tolerate abuse or disrespect towards their team members or other customers in store.

"We know that the majority of our customers appreciate and respect our team members and the great service they provide them," the spokesperson said.

"We regularly train and develop our team to help them manage abusive behaviour and recently launched a new online safety program on de-escalation training - almost 40,000 team members have completed this training.

"We encourage team members to report any incidents of abusive behaviour so that we can provide support."

The spokesperson also indicated that there is an Employee Assistance Program available to all team members.

A Woolworths spokesperson has told Yahoo News that the safety of their team members is their top priority.

"We have health ambassadors at the front of our stores in areas affected by Covid-19 to remind and assist customers to sign in using government QR codes," the spokesperson said.

"The vast majority of customers do the right thing, and are courteous and respectful to our team members

"There is no place for abusive behaviour in our stores and we will not tolerate it.

"We take these matters seriously, and those who abuse our team members can face a range of consequences, including being banned from the store or criminal charges."

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