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Union says government needs to define what is essential retail

- July 16, 2021 2 MIN READ

The Shop Distributive and Allied workers union (SDA NSW) is calling for the government to step up and define essential retail services amidst growing concerns from its members, who are being called into work despite the current outbreak in NSW.

Many retailers remain open despite continuing community transmissions and the union reports high levels of stress from its members in the retail, fast food and warehouse sector .

 SDA says its time the NSW Government and NSW Health made a call on what is essential.

Define essential services

SDA NSW Secretary Bernie Smith says  retail workers don’t get to choose when they work. If they’re asked to come in they have to and this should not be the case during the pandemic.


“The NSW Government can’t put the responsibility of managing the pandemic response onto retail workers. It isn’t up to workers to define what they mean by essential and non-essential retail.

“Workers and business owners are being left in the dark during an already very stressful time. It is up to the Premier to make it clear.” Smith said.

Will disaster payments apply if workers volutarily choose to stay home?

While Smith said the SDA welcomed the news of the increase in payments for workers who have faced disruption in hours dues to the pandemic, he suggested the criteria for payment is  unclear.

“If a retail worker decides for themselves to stay home will they be paid the Covid Disaster Payment? If the Premier can’t definitively answer that, how can a worker decide when they don’t know if they can put food on the table or not?” Smith said.


Smith also suggested the payment should match the previous JobKeeper supplement, with the SDA saying the new payment falls short in  adequately supporting stood-down workers.

Calls for priority vaccinations for essential retail workers

Meanwhile the SDA is continuing its pleas to the NSW Government to include retail workers in the priority vaccination group, with majority of the NSW Health exposure sites in retail settings.

“Thousands of retail workers who continue to serve on the frontline of this crisis are being hung out to dry by the State and Federal Governments as they front up to work without access to covid vaccines.

“Being infected with COVID-19 is a real threat every single day for these essential workers.Our calls for priority access to vaccines are being ignored and it’s a national disgrace.

“Shop workers are tired of being called essential by politicians when it suits them but ignored when it comes to actual recognition like vaccine priority.To ignore retail and fast-food workers is disgraceful and unconscionable,” said Smith.

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