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Vic Premier Slammed By Retail Association

Dan Andrews and the Victorian Government completely “blindsided” the state’s retail sector with last minute changes to staff vaccine rules, according to a blistering open letter sent to the Premier by the Australian Retailers Association.

ARA chief executive Paul Zahra says that, during the middle of Black Friday preparations, usually the busiest time of year for retailers even without the headaches of the pandemic, store managers were forced to change focus to vaccine checking with little to no notice.

“For many retailers, this entailed recruitment or rostering of COVID marshalls for one or several entrances,” Zahra wrote.

“Not only was this at great cost to retail, it also meant finding additional staff with limited preparation time. Retail rostering happens days and usually weeks in advance – in many instances required by law.”

In addition, customer aggression levels were becoming unmanageable as frustration boils over.

“Our members have reported thousands of incidences of customer aggression including many acts of significant violence towards retail staff – such as staff being beaten up, an instance of a boiling cup of coffee being thrown over a frontline worker and a shopping trolley being thrown at another,” the letter reads.

“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, many of which have had to put security guards at their doors.

“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.

“As you can appreciate, not only does this pose serious mental health risks, it also makes it extremely difficult for retailers to operate during the busiest shopping season of the year.

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

Last week, Zahra expressed anger at the government’s mixed messaging.

“Retailers are having to scramble to ensure they’re ready to comply with the new restrictions.

“Retailers are busily preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and are only 36 days from Christmas – which is when most discretionary retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits.

“With a skills crisis reducing resources during this critical trading period, the timing is unfortunate particularly for small businesses. But as they have throughout the pandemic, retailers will get on with it and comply.”

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