A Woolworths staff member has been assaulted after an angry customer became frustrated over the plastic-bag ban.
The incident happened at Woolworths Mandurah last Saturday and it has prompted a call from the retail workers’ union asking people to calm down as stores remove plastic bags.
“We received a report that a guy at a self-serve checkout at Woolworths became unhappy about there being no single-use plastic bags,” Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association WA assistant secretary Ben Harris told Yahoo7.
“A female staff member handed him a free reusable bag.”
Mr Harris said the staff member left the man to continue using the checkout but he accidentally scanned an item twice.
“The man then walked up behind the woman and put his hands around her throat,” Mr Harris said.
Mr Harris added he was not sure how long the confrontation lasted for but said it was a sign there was a “heightened risk” of some shoppers behaving like “pinheads” as stores transition away from single-use plastic bags.
“We’re just urging customers to think about their behaviour during this transition period,” he said.
The supermarket’s WA state manager Karl Weber said Woolworths had offered its “full support” to the staff member and “[would] continue to do so”.
“We’ve also been in contact with police and will assist with investigations if further action is taken,” he said in a statement.
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“The safety of our team members is of the utmost importance and we do not tolerate abusive behaviour towards them in any circumstance.”
It is understood the man has been banned from the store and the staff member has since returned to work.
The SDA conducted a survey for its WA members earlier this week and of the 120 who responded about 50 of them said they had suffered some form of abuse due to the plastic bag change.
“Shop assistants aren’t responsible for this change,” Mr Harris said.
“It’s a good environmental move but people need to calm down. Most are quite civilised.”
Mr Harris is unsure if the woman has pressed charges against the man.
The SDA also launched a campaign last week telling customers not to “bag retail staff” ahead of the phasing out of single-use bags.
“While we understand that some customers may be frustrated by this change, there is no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff,” national secretary Gerard Dwyer said in a statement.
“Retail workers should not have to bear the brunt of any abusive behaviour, just for following the new rules.”
SDA research involving 6,000 retail and fast food workers last year found more than 85 per cent had experienced abuse from customers at work.