MEDIA RELEASE | Industry first – major employers, shopping centres and unions pledge to eradicate customer abuse for good

In an industry first, retail and fast food employers, peak retailer groups, shopping centres, regulators, government and unions are joining forces to eradicate customer abuse in Australian shops.

The SDA’s industry statement has been signed by a range of industry groups including the National Retailer Association, the Australian Retailers Association.

The statement has also been signed by major employers including Coles, Woolworths, Kmart, Hungry Jacks, Bakers Delight, Myer, David Jones, The Reject Shop, and many more. All signatories to date can be found on the statement here.

The SDA, the union for retail and fast food workers, National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer said “We’re proud to see so many employers – large and small – signing this commitment in support of ending customer abuse in their workplaces.

“This is an important and unprecedented move to tackle the customer abuse epidemic in Australia.

“Employers need to be taking a zero tolerance approach towards customer abuse.”

“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 a crisis on our hands.” Mr Dwyer said.

National Retailers Association CEO, Dominique Lamb said “The NRA is delighted to provide unqualified support to this initiative from the SDA to end customer abuse towards retail staff.

“NRA members across Australia are committed to ensuring that their workers operate in a safe environment, with a culture of mutual respect between employee and customer.”

“Our members cannot succeed without hardworking and dedicated employees, that’s why we’re proud to stand with other industry stakeholders in ending customer abuse towards workers.”

“It’s greatly concerning that 78 per cent of retailers who the NRA has surveyed across Australia believe that abuse towards workers is increasing.

“Employers have an important role to play in providing workplaces that see their workers treated with basic dignity and the NRA is committed to doing its part in achieving this.”

The statement pledges support for the eradication of customer abuse and violence, as well agreeing to encourage and facilitate the reporting of all forms of customer perpetrated abuse and violence towards workers, including sexual harassment and assault.

SDA National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer said, “It’s encouraging to see such widespread concern and involvement from a range of employers, and we hope that this leads to actions which reduce the amount of abuse retail and fast food workers are experiencing.

“No one should have to go to work only to have to put up with abuse.” Mr Dwyer said.

The statement has been released today as the SDA kicks off their Safety Demands Action Week.

“This week we’ll be out in stores across Australia talking to workers about workplace health and safety – particularly our priority of reducing customer abuse and how workers can be part of the journey towards a solution.”

The SDA has conducted research in 2017 and 2018 revealing the widespread abuse from customers being experienced by both retail and fast food workers.

The SDA’s “No One Deserves a Serve” campaign first launched across Australia in 2017 to raise awareness about the realities of customer abuse.

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

“I’m thankful to every organisation who has signed the statement to date, and I encourage others to jump on board and help us end customer abuse.” Mr Dwyer said.

Current list of signatories to the SDA’s industry statement include:

  • ALDI
  • API (Priceline)
  • Australasian Association of Convenience Stores Limited
  • Australian Liquor Stores Association
  • Australian Retailers Association (ARA)
  • Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors
  • Bunnings
  • Bakers Delight Holdings Limited
  • Best & Less
  • BP Australia
  • Brural
  • Coles Supermarkets/Express/Liquor/Online
  • Communicorp
  • David Jones
  • EG
  • Forty Winks
  • Gallagher Bassett
  • Harris Scarfe
  • Hoskings Jewellers
  • Hungry Jacks
  • icare
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken Pty. Limited
  • Kmart
  • Myer
  • National Retailers Association (NRA)
  • Ollies Place Kidswear
  • Original Mattress Factory
  • Procare Group
  • Rest
  • SDA
  • SuperFriend
  • Target
  • The Reject Shop
  • Woolworths Group
  • WorkCover Queensland
  • Worksafe ACT


No One Deserves A Serve:
SDA 2018 Survey Results

Over 1000 fast food workers responded to an SDA survey in December 2018.

  • 87% of respondents experienced verbal abuse or aggressive behaviour.
  • 71% of respondents were women.
  • 41% of respondents were 17 years of age or under
  • 32% of respondents said incidents of customer abuse or violence involved behaviour that was sexual in nature.
  • 28% of respondents experienced physical abuse, such as punching, hitting and pushing (or threats of physical abuse including death threats and threats with a weapon) by a customer.
  • 44% of respondents said the abuse they experience has impacted on their mental or physical health.

SDA 2017 Survey Results

Over 6,000 retail and fast food workers responded to our online survey from December 2016 to February 2017.

  • 85% of respondents have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer in the past 12 months.
  • 24% of respondents subjected to verbal abuse say it happens every week.
  • 34% of respondents said they had felt threatened by a customer 1-2 times in the last 12 months.
  • 14% of respondents have experienced physical violence from a customer.
  • 12% of respondents said the incidents of customer abuse or violence involved behaviour by a customer that was sexual in nature.
  • 62% of respondents said customer abuse was generally perpetrated by both male and female customers.
  • 65% of respondents work on cashier/front end/service/registers.
  • 74% of respondents are female.
  • 64% of respondents said they had not received any training in the last 12 months on how to deal with threatening situations that includes abusive or violent customers.
  • 51% of respondents said no action was taken after they reported an incident.

No One Deserves a Serve – Real Stories from Fast Food Workers

These comments are drawn from a December survey of over 1,000 fast food workers from across Australia:

  • “We didn’t have frozen raspberry … so he threatened to slit my throat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill my family and myself if I didn’t remake his cheeseburger because the first one was apparently too cold.”
  • “He threatened to break my kneecaps with a bat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill me and tried to jump through the Drive Thru window.”
  • “A customer threw a cigarette butt at me and then drove off.”
  • “I’ve been threatened with actual physical knives.”
  • “I have been threatened to be raped.  I have had customers physically throw items at me including hot coffee.”
  • “I’ve had things thrown at me. Been told they are going to kill me and wait for me after work.”
  • “I have been physically and sexually threatened. I have been verbally abused. I have had my life, health, safety threatened. I have been spat on.”
  • “One guy tried to fight one of our 16-year-old workers and then threw his food at the window and then called the store making bomb threats.”
  • “Threats to jump the counter and smash my face in. A customer poured a bottle of coke over my head. Constant verbal abuse.”
  • “I have had customers coming in and say things like “where the f*ck is my pizza you little c*nt I’m gonna f*ck this place up if I don’t get my f*cking pizza.”
  • “He threw 4 large soft drinks at me and demanded his money back so I was soaking wet, he also told me to go die.”
  • “A male customer told me to “go get f*cked you stupid f*cking sl*t”.
  • “I am constantly yelled at, sworn at and treated inhumanely by customers at my workplace. I’ve been called names ranging from “incompetent piece of sh*t” to “dumb c*nt” and “fat sl*t”.
  • “I’ve also had someone attempt to pull me out the drive thru window.”
  • “I’ve been called a b*tch, been grabbed at, been sworn at and been told they’ll come find me. Some tell me I’m a worthless drop out. I’m literally still in school.”

Incidents sexual in nature

  • “A guy was rubbing himself down there while I was serving him.”
  • “Old men winking and saying rude sexual comments.”
  • “A customer said oh, you’re the area manager? I’d let you manage my area”.
  • “Customers will speak to the girls inappropriately, asking for their numbers when they’re clearly underage.”
  • “On at least 3 occasions, a trucker I see on a regular basis, has told me he wants me in response to me asking him if he wanted anything else with his meal.”
  • “Constantly hitting on me to get me to go out with them and telling me how age doesn’t matter.”
  • “Passing the cash change through the window he took my hand and was rubbing up and down my hand saying how nice I felt under his fingertips. Also, have had an old man ask to take me home with his fries.”
  • “Inappropriate comments and wouldn’t take no for an answer…. followed me outside when I was on break and wouldn’t leave me alone. Tried kissing me.”
  • “Making comments like “I love it when a girl gives it a good twist” and inappropriate nicknames such as babe, darling, and sweetie, particularly from older, middle aged men. For context, I experienced this as a 16-17-year-old.”


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