Media Release | This has got to stop. Fast food workers must be treated with respect

This has got to stop. Fast food workers must be treated with respect


The SDA – the union for workers in retail and fast food is calling on the public to treat fast workers with respect during the busy Christmas period as part of its ongoing ‘No One Deserves A Serve’ campaign, which launches a new advertising blitz today.


The campaign comes after a recent survey of over 1,000 fast food workers found a staggering 87% of them had experienced verbal abuse or aggressive behaviour. Fast food workers have received death threats, threats of rape and had items such as cigarettes and hot coffee thrown at them.


SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said the union was appalled by the reports.


“Abusive and violent customer behaviour is a serious workplace health and safety issue that impacts the mental and physical health of fast food workers.”


“It’s clear that on a daily basis, fast food workers are being subjected to constant verbal abuse, threats of violence and in some cases, actual physical assault.”


“Our message to the public is that this behaviour has got to stop. Copping abuse is not part of the job. No one deserves a serve.”


The SDA’s research found that 41% of the respondents to the survey were 17 years old or under and 71% were women.


“When we talk about the abuse of fast food workers, we’re actually talking about the abuse of teenage girls.”


“The behaviour they have reported is absolutely unacceptable and it’s time for it to stop.
“This behaviour would never be tolerated in schools, why is it okay for young Australian workers to be abused at work?”


Fast food worker Katrina said that unfortunately, customer abuse was part of her job.


“Just the other day a mother with a 3-year-old child screamed at me because the milk shake machine was broken, blaming me for making her son cry.”


“At my restaurant a 16-year-old girl grabbed a staff member in a head lock and smashed a chicken burger into their face because it was cold.”


“Customers have even picked up and thrown stools at staff members over the smallest things, it’s gotten completely out of control” she said.


Mr Dwyer said launching the new fast food ‘No One Deserves a Serve’ national campaign in the busy Christmas period was focused on changing public behaviour toward fast food and retail workers.


“Abusive behaviour toward fast food workers is never acceptable.”


“We acknowledge that Christmas can be a busy and stressful time for many people, but that does not excuse rude, offensive and disrespectful behaviour toward fast food and retail staff.”


“We also call on employers to act urgently to take a zero-tolerance approach to this behaviour and support workers when incidents occur.


“Employers must step up and do more to protect workers and mitigate risks in their workplaces.”


The nation-wide blitz will include online, television and radio ads, and advertising on buses and billboards in certain states.


Since December 2017, the SDA has been publicly campaigning on the issue of customer abuse and in March 2018 held a national industry roundtable bringing together employers, employer groups and relevant government agencies on how to tackle the issue and better protect workers.


Media contact: Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405



No One Deserves a Serve – Key Statistics


  • 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.


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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