South Australia Calling for Enforcement of Tougher Penalties for Assaults on Fast Food Workers

17 Feb, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Adelaide, Australia (WorkersCompensation.com) – As American fast food workers continue to suffer attacks from customers, other countries are addressing that same issue by beefing up penalties for similar attacks.  

In both the United Kingdom and Australia, law makers have passed provisions that increase penalties for anyone who attacks a fast food worker. In September 2022, laws in Australia doubled the penalties for anyone convicted of attacking retail workers. Under the new rules, penalties for assaulting a worker selling goods could face up to five years in prison, while those convicted of causing harm could see seven years in prison. 

In April 2022, the United Kingdom passed similar laws. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found in its 2022 Crime Report more than 35,000 incidents of violence were reported against convenience store employees for the previous year, and that 89 percent of staff members working in convenience stores had faced abuse in their job. 

Now, in South Australia, workers and labor leaders are calling on law enforcement to enforce those penalties after two fast food employees were attacked. 

Officers in Melrose Park, Australia, south of Adelaide, said that a 20-year-old McDonald’s worker was attacked while delivering food to a customer’s vehicle. The worker, known as Akshay, said the customer had ordered food through the drive-through window at around 1:50 a.m., and had been asked to park in the waiting bay while workers made his order. 

"He was not happy with that, so he came out of the car and I just opened the gate and he was already standing over there," he said. "First of all he verbally abused me, so I just handed over the food and asked him to stop abusing me.”

Akshay said the man didn’t listen and started punching him. Another man then got out of the car and also started to abuse him, the worker said. Akshay said he suffered cuts on his face and broken glasses as a result of the altercation. 

"They threatened me that they would see me later on and will kill me,” the worker told Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Officials said the manager intervened, locking the door to the store to protect the worker from the two men. 

Akshay said he filed a complaint to the police, but that nothing has been done. The worker said they just wanted to see the men punished. 

The attack came after an attack in October where a customer at McDonald’s in Adelaide spat at and verbally abused an employee. 

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) called for the suspects to face the new punishments.  

“We’re seeing far too many instances like this occurring, not just in the fast food, but also throughout the retail sector as well," SDA chief of staff Jordan Mumford said. “We’re certainly calling for the individual involved here to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Mumford said his organization had seen an increase in workers reporting abuse during the holiday season last year. 

“That is really difficult for their mental health and we are having increased instances of workers with anxiety about going to work because of these types of behaviors," he said.

McDonald’s Australia condemned the attacks. 

“Anti-social behavior is not tolerated in our restaurants and we expect our people to be treated with respect at all times," the company said in a statement. “We will always do our best for our customers, but we won’t accept abuse, intimidation, threats or violence towards our employees. The restaurant is supporting crew and assisting police with their investigation.”

In 2021, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) found that between 2017 and 2020, fast food workers in nine California cities called 911 more than 77,000 times because of violent or threatening events. In August 2022, California passed legislation that gave fast food workers more workplace protections, but not stiffer penalties for attacks on them. 


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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