'Unacceptable!': Retails bosses fight against harassment

A police unit protecting retail staff will be mobilised in NZ

'Unacceptable!': Retails bosses fight against harassment

Harassing retail workers has been slammed by the chief of Retail NZ as "completely unacceptable," following a significant increase in harassment cases against staff in the sector over the past year.

"Rates of aggression, violence and anti-social behaviour from members of the public have doubled over the past year, on top of significant increases over the last few years," said Retail NZ chief Greg Harford in a statement.

According to the official, retail teams are often on the receiving end of threats and abuse in stores, online, or even over the phone. This also includes a growing trend on physical or even sexual assault in-store. He said such instances are having a big impact on the well-being of workers in the sector, and it is "completely unacceptable."

"This is completely unacceptable, and retailers are asking everyone to #shopnice," said Harford.

To address the problem, retailers across New Zealand convened on Monday to launch a new Declaration on Violence and Anti-social Behaviour, which outlines what are the acceptable and not acceptable behaviour for customers.

"If you engage in anti-social behaviour, we will ask you to leave our store, and we will not engage with you on social media," the declaration read.

Retail NZ said the declaration is important especially with the upcoming reopening of businesses on Wednesday, as retailers are "not prepared to accept sexual or racist harassment of any kind, offensive or abusive language, threats or violence."

Read more: Use of body cams, facial recognition for retailer mulled after NZ attack

Police assistance

In the same meeting, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster also announced the establishment of a New Retail Investigation Support Unit to help protect workers from abusive customers.

"No retail worker or customer should experience fear or trauma when going about their day-to-day activities and the establishment of this unit signals our continued commitment to ensuring everyone can be safe and feel safe," said Coster as quoted by Stuff.

The unit, which is expected to be mobilised in the first quarter of 2022, will be composed of police with specialist staff from the retail sector and other organisations against crime. An estimated $1 billion a year is lost in the sector due to retail offending, Stuff reported citing Retail NZ. Coster said that while the financial impact is significant, an effect can also be felt on the safety, well-being, and health of workers in the retail sector.

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