Team members in Countdown/Woolworths stores continue to experience daily abuse and aggression with a 131% rise in physical assaults in the last six months compared to the same time last year.
Woolworths has launched a campaign asking customers to show respect towards its team as the retail sector heads into the busiest time of year and customer aggression stays at concerning levels.
Woolworths New Zealand is calling for respect and courtesy from customers this holiday season as team members continue to report high levels of verbal and physical aggression and abuse from customers.
The retailer is rolling out a new campaign that includes in-store radio announcements, posters and a week-long programme to thank customers who treat team members well. The campaign is in addition to Woolworth New Zealand’s three year, $45 million investment programme adding more security measures to stores.
Woolworths New Zealand Managing Director, Spencer Sonn, says it’s upsetting that team members are continuing to report daily, if not hourly, instances of abuse and aggression.
“The reality is that 99% of our customers are fantastic and always treat our team with respect but unfortunately in the last few years we have seen a significant rise in the number of people walking through our doors that act aggressively and sometimes violently.
“In the last week alone, we’ve had instances of our team being spat at, called names and even shoved – all while simply trying to do their jobs.
“That’s why, leading up to the holiday season, New Zealanders are going to see and hear us asking for respect. We know it can be a busy and stressful time of year, but there’s no excuse for taking it out on our team.
“Importantly, we also want to recognise the incredible acts of kindness and generosity that we do see from our customers and communities every day – so this week we’ll be saying thank you. Every one of our stores will award one gift card every day to a local customer who shows those traits. This is our small way of saying thanks and paying it forward.” says Spencer.
FIRST Union National Organiser for Retail Food, Ross Lampert, adds that during the pandemic, supermarket workers were hailed as essential workers, recognising them as the heroes that they have always been for the critical work they do in providing for our communities.
“Unfortunately, since this time, there has been a noticeable escalation in abuse that has been thrown their way, often by customers that are under stress in their own lives. This is not acceptable behaviour, and First Union fully supports ensuring all Countdown and Woolworths team, as well as other retail workers, are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” says Ross.
Woolworths New Zealand has a number of safety and security measures being rolled out to make stores safer for team members and customers. These include trolley lock systems, new camera technology at self-checkouts and double entry gates among others. Every measure implemented complies with New Zealand law including privacy requirements.
Details of new initiatives
• The retailer is currently implementing a number of additional safety and security controls across its stores, including trialling body worn cameras in ten stores and fog cannons.
• Fog cannons are in place in stores that have had multiple break & enter incidents. The cannons are only activated in the event of offenders entering a store, and following successful implementation further deployment will happen across targeted stores.
• Body-worn cameras are in trial in ten stores. These are intended as a deterrent and have so far been activated in a small number of events, none of them major. Cameras will only be turned on in the event of a security / serious safety incident and footage will not be released except when requested by Police as part of an investigation.