Mandatory masks in retail are a step in the right direction but more must be done to protect frontline workers.

With South Australia’s lockdown set to end, the SDA is welcoming the Government’s decision for masks to remain mandatory in retail settings.

Across our supermarkets, bottle shops and petrol stations, thousands of retail workers have been forced to stand at the frontline of this crisis and put themselves at risk for our communities.

With retail outlets and shopping centres making up nearly half of the exposure sites in South Australia in July and over 80% of exposure sites in the NSW outbreak, mandatory mask wearing in these settings acts as a baseline defence against this virus.

Mandatory mask wearing alone is not a foolproof defence against the virus or other threats retail workers face such as non-compliant and abusive customers.

Over the past week, the SDA has received an increased number of reports of customer abuse from SDA members.

To stop the spread in retail settings and keep retail workers safe, the SDA is also calling for the Government to:

  1.  Declare retail workers as essential and consider any assault of retail workers at work as aggravated.

  2. Introduce significant fines for anybody found to be intentionally spitting or coughing on workers like NSW, QLD and NT have done.

  3. Seek to toughen retail trespass laws to give retail outlets greater power to ban aggressors from their outlets.

  4. Prioritise all frontline retail workers for vaccinations. Just as NSW announced yesterday.

Mandatory mask wearing will help keep thousands of workers in our supermarkets, hardware stores, bottle shops and petrol stations safe and limit the spread of the virus.

While this is a step in the right direction, we need to see more than just mandatory mask wearing implemented to protect retail workers on the frontline.

We know that with mandatory mask wearing, there will always be 1 or 2 idiots who try to pull the sovereign citizen line on retail workers and barge their way into a store without wearing a mask or checking in.

The Government needs to stand up and send a clear message to these non-compliant trouble-makers by declaring retail workers as essential and introducing fines for spitting/coughing on retail workers.

While it’s great to see Commissioner Stevens say retail workers aren’t responsible for enforcing mask wearing, we know they’re still going to be the ones to cop it unless the Government steps in.

We need to do more to protect retail workers from all the threats in their workplaces.