Sunday, 10 December 2023:
- More than 2000 incidents of violence and abuse reported across Australian stores since 1 July
Most common acts of aggression include verbal and physical abuse, and threats with a weapon
New respect campaign launched in stores ahead of busy Christmas shopping period
Woolworths Group is calling for respect and courtesy from customers this holiday season as team members continue to report unacceptable levels of verbal abuse and physical aggression in stores
Since July, an average of 420 incidents a month are being reported from Woolworths Supermarkets, Metro Stores and BIG W - a rise of 50 per cent compared to the same time last year.
This financial year Woolworths has invested more than $40 million across Australia on CCTV upgrades, team safety cameras, headsets and personal duress devices to keep store teams safe.
In addition, funding has been allocated to other practical measures for team including face to face resilience and de-escalation training, as well as virtual reality training for common aggressive situations.
A new in-store campaign has also been launched including in-store radio announcements and posters to remind customers to treat all team members with respect during the busiest shopping time of the year.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said it was confronting that team members are being treated this way while simply trying their best to do their job.
“I can’t stress enough that 99% of our customers are amazing and always treat our team with respect, but unfortunately in the post COVID-era we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of people walking through our doors who act aggressively - and sometimes violently,” Mr Banducci said.
“In the past fortnight, we have had team members punched, spat on and other recent incidents including threats with a range of weapons from baseball bats, iron bars to knives. We are also seeing aggression and violence against our home delivery drivers with one driver recently pulled from his truck at gunpoint.
“This behaviour is unacceptable in our stores, across our delivery network - or in any workplace. That’s why we need to continue to invest in safety for our team and customers and work with the broader retail industry and government to help tackle this extremely worrying trend.
“Christmas is just a couple of weeks away and we know that it can feel a little more stressful at this time of year. Stores will be busy, and our team is excited to help customers get ready to celebrate, all we ask is that they are treated with the respect they deserve.
“Importantly, we also want to recognise the incredible acts of kindness and generosity that we see from our customers, and in the lead up to Christmas, our store teams are looking to reciprocate given it is the little things that count.”
Bernie Smith, NSW Secretary of the SDA - the union for retail workers - welcomed the call for respect this Christmas.
“Christmas is a time of good cheer, an opportunity to catch up with family and friends, but also a time of stress.
“Abuse and violence of retail workers is now an epidemic.
“A comprehensive SDA survey of members shows that cases of customer violence have jumped by 50 percent in just two years.
“There have been stabbings, axe attacks and bashings in major retail outlets.
“The SDA welcomes this important and timely Woolworths initiative, adding to the combined efforts of major retailers, industry bodies and retail workers through their union, the SDA, to encourage shoppers to watch their behaviour and governments to act to ensure the safety of retail staff.
“Check your behaviour as you checkout.”
Acts of violence and aggression by store + delivery services from July 2023
*Woolies X refers to grocery deliveries