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Media statement | 24 March 2020

In line with the Prime Minister’s call for Australians to pay more respect to “social distancing” for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, the union representing retail workers is calling for additional steps to improve the safety of shoppers and employees.

The SDA is engaging daily with major companies on arrangements being put in place to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

On top of measures already introduced, the SDA is calling for retailers to:

  1. Go ‘cash free’ and accept card payments only.
  2. Install plexiglass screens at cash registers to protect workers who cannot keep at least 1.5 metres from customers.
  3. Display signage and floor marking to ensure social distancing.
  4. Ensure sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content is readily available to all staff.
  5. Provide workers with gloves and personal face shields.
  6. Provide bags free of charge for each purchase to avoid handling of customer bags. No use of customers’ used bags unless the customer bags it themselves.
  7. Continue to increase security to assist in enforcing purchase limits and in dealing with unreasonable customers. Police resources may also need to be deployed to protect workers. Ensure regular cleaning and sanitation of workstations and personal protective equipment.
  8. Take a zero tolerance approach to customer violence and abuse.
  9. Publicly promote the SDA’s No One Deserve A Serve campaign to improve customer behaviour.

“Shoppers need to be as safe as possible, so do the people who are serving them,” said Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary of the SDA.

The SDA is also calling for an additional payment of $5 per hour should Stage 2 restrictions on retail activity be introduced.

“State and territory borders are already closing. The Prime Minister has foreshadowed the possibility of regions or suburbs being locked down,” said Mr Dwyer.

“In the coming weeks it is likely that only essential services will be allowed to continue to operate in many parts of Australia.

“As this occurs supermarkets and some other retail outlets will be deemed by governments as ‘essential’ and required to continue to trade.

“When most of the community moves into working or staying at home the SDA believes that all frontline workers – including those at supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and convenience stores – should receive an ‘Essential Service Payment.’ of $5 per hour.

“Not only would workers in these essential outlets be working harder, it would be more stressful and more risky to their physical health.

“Without the efforts of these workers, in such circumstances households would find it increasingly difficult to get the food, fuel and medical supplies they need.

“These workers stand ready to serve. They deserve a small acknowledgement of the risks they would be taking to keep the community fed and healthy, said Mr Dwyer.