Woolworths rolls out staff body cameras against advice from retail union

It was announced all Woolworths workers across New Zealand will start wearing body cams this week, which were first trialled in Aussie stores in 2021.

More body cams are appearing in Woolworths stores as workers are being asked to wear them in the name of safety, yet the retail workers' union is pushing back against the move claiming the devices are instead turning minimum wage workers into "walking CCTVs" to safeguard supermarket profits.

This week it was announced all Woolworths workers across New Zealand would start wearing body cams, with the supermarket trialling the devices in Australia as far back as 2021.

A Woolworths worker scanning fresh produce through the till while wearing a body cam (left). A worker was spotted wearing a body cam around their neck help customers at self checkout (right).
Body cams have been rolled out across Woolworths in New Zealand this week to crack down on shopper violence. Source: Woolworths and TikTok

Woolworths says the body cams are being introduced in response to the increase in violence which retail staff have been subjected to in recent years, yet the Secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) disputes this motive, saying the devices are creating more conflict rather than diffusing it.

"We've not heard of any workers wanting to wear them, they're seen as a device which creates conflict rather than de-escalate or avoid conflict," Josh Cullinan said. He pointed to the the fact workers are required to notify shoppers when they will begin recording, further antagonising them.

Woolworths told Yahoo it has been rolling out body cameras in Australian stores since December following the earlier trials. However it refused to say how many stores or team members are currently using them.

The body cams were announced as part of a larger package of team safety initiatives including in-store announcements and posters to remind shoppers to treat retail staff with respect.

"We have had team members punched, spat on and other recent incidents including threats with a range of weapons from baseball bats, iron bars to knives," Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said in December when announcing the initiatives.

However, the RAFFWU believes the body cams are putting the responsibility back onto workers to combat the worrying trend of abuse without supermarkets enacting effective changes which the union has been advocating for, such as updating the Enterprise Agreement — a document which outlines wages and workplace conditions.

"The body cams have definitely had a negative effect on workers, it's making workers a walking CCTV in circumstances where other systems to protect them are not being used," Cullinan said. "They're not cops, they're not security guards... no one wants to wear them."

The nation's second biggest supermarket, Coles, also began trialling the use of body cams by staff in 30 stores across South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland in September. Yahoo News has contacted Coles to find out if the supermarket plans to increase the uptake of the program.

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