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Victorian retail workers abused after vaccine mandate implemented

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Thousands of Victorian retail workers have been physically and verbally assaulted by shoppers over the state’s vaccine mandate.

The spike in mistreatment has included one staffer being beaten up, another getting scolded by a cup of coffee and a shopping trolley being thrown at a third.

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It comes just days after the state made it mandatory for every eligible Victorian to be fully vaccinated before entering a non-essential retail premises.

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The Australian Retailers Association is now pleading with the state government to shift to New South Wales-style rules which would see the mandate scrapped once 95 per cent of people are vaccinated.

ARA chief executive officer Paul Zahra made the appeal in an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews detailing the “enormous challenges” facing the sector.

“Our members have reported thousands of incidences of customer aggression including many acts of significant violence towards retail staff,” Mr Zahra said.

“The reports of customer aggression are coming from a broad range of retailers – from department stores to hardware stores, along with small businesses and even charity shops.

“Customer aggression has remained a problem throughout the pandemic. However, the behaviour exhibited by customers during the past week reached peak levels, resulting in many retail staff becoming fearful to return to work.”

The letter also discussed how the regulations in addition to festive sales periods are causing chaos for embattled staff.

COVID RESTRICTIONS LIFTED
Camera IconCustomers show vaccination certificates to staff before entering JB HIFI in South Yarra. NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty Credit: News Corp Australia

“The current skills crisis has already seen many retail and hospitality outlets close due to lack of available staff,” Mr Zahra said.

“This, coupled with the enormous pressure retailers are already under due to supply chain issues and the intensity of Christmas and Black Friday trade, it is creating unprecedented levels of anxiety.

“The timing and the stop-start nature of the vaccine checking requirement, following freedoms experienced by unvaccinated Victorians, has been extremely challenging for retailers to manage.”

Mr Zahra also said the sector were only given several hours’ notice of the rule change and attempts to contact the government for clarity went unanswered until after it came into affect.

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