As increasing restrictions hit NSW amid surging COVID case numbers, retail workers union Shops, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association has hit back at the NSW Government for failing to protect retail workers.
Under the current rules, shoppers can only go out for ‘essential’ shopping, though what counts as essential retail can literally vary from person to person and, as such, any business can remain open regardless of current health orders – putting workers at risk on the whims of their employers, according to SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer.
Financial support for workers, as well as a targeted vaccine roll-out, is a must, according to Dwyer.
“As New South Wales faces the prospect of a protracted lockdown, the Morrison government must introduce JobKeeper 2.0 to enable workers to put food on the table and protect them and the broader community from the enhanced dangers of contracting COVID-19,” Dwyer said.
“The only effective way out of the current lockdown is to support businesses with wage subsidies and ensure that essential retail and fast-food outlets maintain the highest levels of safety. This is far from the case at the moment.”
According to SDA analysis of the NSW Health website, 64 per cent of close contact sites, and 79 per cent of casual contact sites, were a shop or shopping centre between the 2nd and 9th of July.
“Shoppers have the option of physical shopping; retail workers do not,” Dwyer said. “They are at the beck and call of their employers.”
Dwyer also said that if retail workers are to continue on the front line of the lockdown, NSW should prioritise their vaccination, and that doing so would not only protect their own health, but the health of the communities they work in.
SDA NSW Secretary Bernie Smith said it was “beyond frustrating” to see teachers given priority access to vaccines when the majority of infectious sites are in shopping centres.
“To ignore retail and fast-food workers is disgraceful and unconscionable,” Smith said. “Retail workers should be included in the [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s] priority grouping of ‘those working in services critical to societal functioning’ but they are being blatantly ignored.
“Retail workers are essential workers – and they need to be urgently given access to a vaccine,” Smith urged.
This story first appeared on our sister publication Inside Retail