Supermarket workers have been hailed as the ‘unsung heroes’ of the coronavirus outbreak after working day and night to keep shelves stacked to help millions of Australians through the crisis.
Families have been queuing for hours outside stores across the nation to get their hands on everyday essentials, fearing they could soon be infected or quarantined as the virus spreads.
Stories of everyday heroes are popping up across the country, as selfless staff work overtime to help deliver groceries.
Coles and Woolworths announced they were opening an hour earlier this week to allow elderly or vulnerable Australians special access to products so they don’t have to battle the crowds.
Photographs from inside a Coles in Southland, Melbourne, show staff tirelessly working to restock shelves to prepare for ‘elderly hour’.
Hundreds of customers queued to ensure they got special access and once inside the store shoppers looked happy and relaxed as they filled their trolleys.
Supermarket workers have been compared to firefighters during the bushfire crisis as they deal with hundreds of people a day, not knowing if they are infected with coronavirus.
Supermarket workers have become the unsung heroes of the coronavirus outbreak as they desperately try to keep shelves stacked to help millions of Australians through the crisis
Happy to help: One smiling checkout worker helps a woman stock up on antibacterial wipes and pasta at a Coles
Lettuce be friends: One woman tirelessly restocks shelves ready for hoards of customers about to come through the doors
One Woolworths employee, an international student, told Daily Mail Australia that he was now working 40 hours a week, up from 20, to cope with demand.
‘We are going against our families wishes by working during the coronavirus crisis. It’s a similar situation to the firefighters risking their lives during the bushfires in January.’
Some employees have had to deal with being attacked and verbally abused by out of control customers desperate to stock up on food.
Lemon and lime time: A grinning employee banters with his colleagues as they prepare the store for opening
Stack hack: This bearded worker has his happy face on as he piles a trolley full of rubbish after filling shelves of essential items
Coming through! A worker in high-vis makes his way through the store to get new products from a recent delivery
Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary of the SDA, the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers, told Daily Mail Australia supermarket workers have been ‘stoic’ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Unfortunately stories of workers, particularly supermarket workers, being abused and harassed while they’re simply trying to do their job have been all too common lately. Abuse of our frontline workers is too common all year round, but the last few weeks have been particularly bad,’ he said.
‘Our supermarket workers in particular are certainly proving to be some of the unsung heroes of the current coronavirus pandemic.
‘To get up and go into work day after day, knowing that what you are about to be faced with could be very ugly and difficult, is no mean feat. We should never underestimate the strength of character and the sense of community service our retail workforce has.’
Russell Zimmerman, the executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, echoed Mr Dwyer’s sentiments.
He told Daily Mail Australia supermarket workers were doing a great job in ‘incredible and extreme’ conditions.
‘I call these conditions extreme because as soon as they unpack the stock onto the shelves it disappears just as quickly,’ he said.
Meat and greet: This hardworking employee is restocking shelves full of meat in preparation for hundreds of customers
He’s not cagey! One worker piled his trolley high with chips, cans and other produce in the warehouse of Coles, in Southland, Melbourne
‘Unsung heroes’: The SDA union said supermarket workers have been ‘stoic’ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic
‘Unfortunately I have seen someone abuse a staff member myself recently and I told the person to calm down as it isn’t the fault of the staff.’
Customers have taken to social media to praise shop workers across the country, saying they are helping to keep families fed and communities calm.
‘Thank you to the staff for your efforts during this tough time, I don’t envy you at all,’ one social media user said.
Another said: ‘Thank you to all the staff doing their best to get us our supplies in this crazy time. Special mention to the staff at Stockland this morning.
‘You were all doing your best to restock around the crowds, and get us through the check outs as quickly as possible while politely explaining the restrictions.’
A Coles worker in Brunswick, Melbourne, was allegedly attacked with a stick after a customer was outraged by the lack of stock on the shelves
He allegedly left the store and returned with the makeshift weapon, leaving the worker with a bleeding arm. A man was later arrested and charged
Customers have been praising supermarket workers on social media for their professionalism and their hard work
On Sunday, a Coles worker in Brunswick, Melbourne, was allegedly attacked with a stick after a customer was outraged by the lack of stock on the shelves.
Police said the attacker left the store in a fury and returned with the make-shift weapon, beating the employee and leaving them with a bleeding arm.
A 43-year-old man has been charged following the incident.
Squeaky clean: A smiling employee restocks washing up liquid after stocks were depleted during coronavirus panic buying
On Tuesday an employee at the Rosebud Woolworths, 75km southeast of Melbourne, was allegedly stabbed while collecting trolleys.
A 25-year-old was arrested by Victoria Police following the stabbing.
On the same afternoon a ma allegedly punched a Coles employee in the face after not getting the products he wanted. He also rammed two women in their 70s with a trolley.
GROCERY LIMITS ENFORCED BY THE MAJOR SUPERMARKETS
- Eggs – two packs per customer
- Chilled pasta – two packs per person
- Frozen vegetables- two packs per customer
- Frozen dessert – two packs per customer
- Mince includes Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken and Turkey – two packs per customer
- Flour – two packs per customer Dried rice – two packs per person
- Paper towels/tissues – two packs per customer
- Hand sanitisers – two packs per customer
- Dry Pasta – two per customer
- Flour – two per customer
- Tissues – two per customer
- Paper towel, serviettes and wipes – one per customer
- Toilet paper – one per customer
- Hand sanitiser – two per customer
- Bulk rice (2kg+) – one per customer
- Toilet paper – one per customer
- Dry Pasta – two per customer
- Flour – two per customer
- Dry Rice (excludes microwave rice) – two per customer
- Paper Towels – two per customer
- Tissues – two per customer
- Hand Sanitiser – two per customer
Aldi chief executive officer Tom Daunt slammed the behaviour of some customers .
He said while workers are doing the best they can to maintain stock levels, customers must also do their bit.
Pandemic: People have been warned against panic buying and instead told to make sure they have up to two weeks of groceries
‘The increase in violence that retailers have seen over the past few weeks is absolutely unacceptable,’ he said.
He asked people to be ‘considerate and compassionate’ when they shop and respect employees.
‘Quite frankly, we won’t tolerate anything less. We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can mean that others will be left without,’ he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed these sentiments during a press conference on Wednesday where he told the public to stop hoarding supplies as it is ‘one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis’.
Aldi chief executive officer Tom Daunt slammed the behaviour of some customers after reports of violence towards workers
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also slammed the behaviour of violent or aggressive customers at a press conference on Wednesday
Customers were impressed with the kindness shown by staff at Coles’ first community shopping hour on March 18
He also urged people to stop verbally and physically employees of supermarkets.
‘Do not abuse staff. We’re all in this together. People are doing their jobs. They’re doing their best,’ he said.
‘Whether they’re at a testing clinic this morning. Whether they’re at a shopping centre. Whether they’re at a bank, a train station, everybody is doing their best.
‘So let’s just support each other in the work that they are doing. And I encourage you please, if you see someone doing that, just call it out and ask them to just refrain from doing that. That’s the right thing to do.’
Supermarkets gone the extra mile to make sure Australia’s most vulnerable people have access to groceries.
Supermarkets have done everything they can in order to make sure Australia’s most vulnerable have access to groceries
This week Woolworths and Coles are an hour earlier so elderly people, pensioners and the disabled can make their purchases without having to battle the crowds (pictured: empty shelves)
Woolworths is working with Meals on Wheels across New South Wales, ensuring elderly people receive a fresh roll of toilet paper along with their meals.
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director, Claire Peters said: ‘Due to the unprecedented demand on certain products in our stores, we’ve heard that many elderly and vulnerable people in the community are missing out on items they may need when they shop.
‘While we’ll continue to do our very best to continue restocking our stores, we encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in your community at this time who might need help and ensure that we continue to support each other.’
This week Woolworths and Coles are opening an hour earlier so elderly people, pensioners and the disabled can make purchases without having to battle the crowds.
One happy customer: One elderly shopper beams as she fills her trolley with toilet paper, pasta and fresh fruit and vegetables Woolworths
Toilet paper has been in short supply after panic buying gripped the nation. Luckily this customer managed to get his hands on a 12 pack before Coles ran out
On Monday, Coles announced that they would employ an extra 5,000 casual workers to help cope with demand.
The supermarket will introduce a fast-tracked induction process and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.
It also plans to dedicate grocery deliveries to people who are isolated and vulnerable. This means deliveries for other customers will be temporarily suspended, as will the Click&Collect service.
Stores will also close earlier so they can restock shelves.
Aldi will now be closing nightly at 7pm so staff can spend time with their families and keep up with demand.
Coles will also be shutting ‘no later’ than 8pm each night.
The Queensland Government have also lifted restrictions on loading docks at supermarkets, allowing trucks 24-hour access
Supermarkets have been forced to introduce limits on products after panic buying left shelves bare.
On Tuesday, Aldi announced it was limiting customers to two packets each of dry pasta, paper towels, hand sanitiser, dry rice and flour. Only one packet of toilet paper is allowed per customer.
Coles has introduced similar restrictions, limiting customers to two packs per person of eggs, chilled pasta, frozen vegetables and frozen dessert. They have also imposed limits on mince meat, toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
Woolworths has also introduced limits on a wide range of products.
In a bid to keep shelves restocked the Queensland Government lifted restrictions on loading docks at supermarkets, allowing trucks 24-hour access.
‘We are not running out of products,’ state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
‘But we need to make these changes to get products on the shelves as quickly as possible.
‘The message is clear – you do not need to panic buy or unnecessarily stockpile products.’
In addition to this, some supermarkets will be allowed to open 24 hours to keep up with the public’s need for groceries.
Panic-buying has forced supermarkets to introduce buying restrictions on toilet paper, pasta, flour and rice
Coles is also seeking more than 5,000 casual workers to help cope with demand and quickly replenish shelves
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced that shops in the state will be able to stay open around the clock for 30 days during weekdays.
The deregulated shopping hours will begin on Monday, March 23.
Under the new regulations shops in South Australia will be open all day from Monday to Friday, and will then be able to open from 12am to 9pm on Saturday and from 9am to 9pm on Sunday.
South Australia Treasurer Rob Lucas said shops wouldn’t be forced to open but he thought many business owners would extend their opening hours as the rules are relaxed.