SDA union hosts second national roundtable to tackle customer abuse epidemic in retail and fast food


The SDA recently hosted a second roundtable with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retail Association (NRA) to tackle the customer abuse epidemic in retail and fast food outlets across the country.

The National Customer Abuse & Violence Industry Roundtable brought together major employers, industry peak bodies, NGOs and government organisations from across Australia to discuss how we can prevent retail and fast food workers from copping abuse on the job including hearing from a panel of retail and fast-food workers directly about their experiences.

Since the first roundtable on March 2018, the SDA together with industry has made significant progress towards raising awareness about and reducing the risk of customer abuse, including:

  • SDA consultation with employers and launch of the “Don’t Bag Retail Staff’ advertising campaign calling out customers not to take out frustrations about bans on single-use plastic bags on workers
  • Working with employers on their specific policies and training
  • New SDA fast food specific advertising campaign raising awareness about abuse of fast-food workers
  • SDA briefing of Federal and State Members of Parliament and Senators about the issue
  • A literature review on solutions for occupational violence in retail and fast food industries
  • Meetings with relevant state or territory agencies including police and government safety regulations
  • Partnered with the AHRC for an in-depth retail and fast food industries survey on the prevalence and impact of customer perpetrated sexual harassment

Major Retailers and Fast Food Operators were involved in the roundtable as well as the National Retail Association. The SDA asked all employers and stakeholders to make a commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to customer abuse and violence.

The SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said: “Any type of abuse on the job is completely unacceptable, and when you have 85% of retail staff reporting they have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer and 14% reporting physical violence – you know we’ve got an epidemic on our hands.”

“Retail and fast-food workers have told us they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs.

“By bringing together employers and important stakeholders, we’re aiming to create industry-wide solutions to this customer abuse epidemic.

“Customer abuse is completely intolerable that’s why we’re bringing unions, business and government together to implement ways to stop it.

“It’s encouraging to see such widespread concern and involvement from a range of employers, and we hope that once again this translates into a strong set of short-term and long-term solutions to reduce customer abuse and protect retail and fast-food workers.”

The SDA has conducted research in 2017 and 2018 revealing the widespread abuse from customers being experienced by both retail and fast-food workers.  This year the SDA has undertaken further research in relation to sexual harassment perpetrated by customers.

The SDA’s “No One Deserves a Serve” campaign first launched across Australia in 2017 to raise awareness about the realities of customer abuse. [Materials including research data and visual assets available below]

“This abuse can severely impact their physical and psychological health and it cannot continue. Everyone has the right to a safe work environment.”

“We hope this roundtable will once again focus on implementing a range of solutions to eliminate the amount of abuse and violence that retail and fast food workers receive from customers because copping abuse should not be part of the job.”

“I applaud every organisation and employer’s support for reducing customer abuse in their workplaces as evidenced by their attendance at this important roundtable and encourage them to support our push for a zero-tolerance approach to this behaviour,” Mr Dwyer said.

ENDS…to interview Mr Zimmerman or for more details: Zoe Thompson (m) 0439 612 556 (e)

About the Australian Retailers Association: Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $320 billion-dollar sector, which employs more than 1.3 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,800 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit or call 1300 368 041.


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