24 Aug 2021

Covid-19 lockdown putting huge pressure on supermarket workers - union

11:36 am on 24 August 2021

The union representing many of the country's supermarket workers says its members have been under severe stress during lockdown week one.

Businessman in the supermarket at inventory with checklist in the vegetable department

A close eye is being kept on staffing levels, FIRST union says. File photo Photo: 123F

Checkout rage, customers who don't wear masks and some staff having to isolate are all causing headaches - although the union also says that supermarkets are working hard on fixing the problems.

FIRST Union's Tali Williams said workers are complaining to the union about fatigue and high stress levels as they face high customer volumes at a time of uncertainty.

"We're hearing a lot from people about feeling very exhausted and stressed out," she told Morning Report.

"If the staffing levels are affected in the supermarket because we've got people who need to stay home because they have at-risk people in their bubble, or they're at risk themselves or they're sick or they're a close contact so what that's meaning is less staff available in the stores."

Williams said the union was keeping a close watch on supermarkets' staffing levels.

"It's not OK to have skeleton staff in a situation where there's high-pressure stakes like we have at the moment like queues out the door - it's not fair on those workers in the store."

The union is pleased that workers are now being prioritised for vaccinations.

Since the government announced that supermarket workers would be a priority, the Health Ministry has been talking to the major supermarket owners, Foodstuffs and Countdown, to work out a schedule that will suit the industry.

"So for some time we've been advocating and so have the supermarkets been advocating for supermarket workers to be prioritised because as we all know they're very much on the frontline.

"They're facing streams of customers all days every day."

Williams said she was confident that Foodstuffs and Countdown were doing everything possible to get their thousands of employees vaccinated.

"The most important thing is now that we're in a situation they're going to be prioritised ... supermarket workers are responding very positively in the main."

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