Australia

Death threats and burgers in the face: 87 per cent of fast food workers report abuse

Fast food workers working in a hamburger restaurant close up. Source: iStockphoto

The union representing fast food workers has launched a major campaign to reduce the abuse being handed out by angry customers.

Fast food worker Katrina was yelled at by a mother with a three-year-old child because the milkshake machine was broken. 

She's seen her colleagues treated even worse. 

"At my restaurant a 16-year-old girl grabbed a staff member in a head lock and smashed a chicken burger into their face because it was cold," she said.

"Customers have even picked up and thrown stools at staff members over the smallest things, it's gotten completely out of control."

Deep fryer.
Deep fryer with boiling oil on restaurant kitchen.
iStockphoto

A survey of 1000 fast food workers has found this sort of treatment is not uncommon with 87 per cent reporting being abused by angry customers. 

That's prompted the union representing fast food workers and retail staff to launch the 'No One Deserves a Serve' campaign. 

Some of the 1000 fast food workers surveyed reported that they had received death threats, threats of rape and had cigarettes and hot coffee thrown at them.

Nearly three-quarters of those who took part in the survey were women, while 41 per cent were 17 or younger.

More than a quarter of all respondents had experienced physical abuse, such as punching, hitting and pushing - or threats of physical abuse including death threats and threats with a weapon - by a customer.

Teenage girls often the targets

Angry customers have spat on fast wood workers, thrown cigarettes, hot coffee and soft drink at them, workers reported in the surveys.  

While others described customers trying to "fight one of our 16-year-old workers" and threatening them with knives.

"When we talk about the abuse of fast food workers, we're actually talking about the abuse of teenage girls," SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said on Monday.

"The behaviour they have reported is absolutely unacceptable and it's time for it to stop.

"This behaviour would never be tolerated in schools, why is it okay for young Australian workers to be abused at work?"

The union's campaign begins today with an advertising blitz to spread its anti-abuse message over the festive season.

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