Different Covid rules for big business compared to local?

Filed in Just In by August 31, 2021

WHILE many local small businesses have been forced to close their doors again for another lockdown to keep our community safe and businesses in Sydney have been forcibly closed by police for non-compliance, Woolworths has explained it’s not their responsibility to ensure their customers wear a face mask while in their store or check in.

Local customers have expressed their frustration at the different rules for big business compared to small and local staff have spoken off the record about their frustration that head office has directed them not to refuse service to customers who are not complying with covid regulations.

Jill Reid was one such customer who said she is frustrated for the community and also for the staff who want to do the right thing, but are not allowed.

“When I was in Woolies on Saturday, I was only there for 15 minutes, but I saw two different people walk through, not scan their QR codes and not wearing a mask,” said Ms Reid.

“I asked staff why they were allowed and was told they are not allowed to do anything about it,” she said.

“It’s not fair on local businesses who are closed right now, that a big chain like Woolworth’s can operate and not comply.

“I raised it with management who said they are not responsible for policing and I also spoke with head office.

“They said it’s because they are worried about people being aggressive to staff, but Woolworths make a comfortable profit and it takes one security guard to stand there and check people and that’s all it takes, like any overhead with a business during covid,” she said.

“At the moment they put a young staff member as you walk in, who are told to offer to help people, but they should have a security guard there for compliance,” she said.

“With numbers growing like they are in regional New South Wales, what would happen if we had an outbreak at Coles or Woolies and they closed?

“Woolworths have a duty of care to their customers, their staff and the community,” she said.

“But they have said it’s up to the community, not them, to ensure everyone is doing the right thing,” Jill Reid said.

David Layzell, Member for Upper Hunter said he has also received many complaints from people throughout the Upper Hunter electorate complaining that large businesses seem to be playing by different rules to everyone else.

“I have received complaints regarding the apparent unwillingness of Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings to enforce their COVIDSafe plan on shoppers,” said Mr Layzell MP.

“It would appear to be a very different attitude now to the first lockdown. These big businesses need to do the right thing by the community and ensure they have people available at the front door that will remind people to follow the rules,” he said.

“We have given them an ongoing privilege to continue operating at the expense of our small businesses. They need to repay that social licence by doing everything they can to encourage compliance,” David Layzell said.

Woolworths head office issued a statement saying that they have “health ambassadors” at the front of the store to assist customers to sign in and provide complementary face masks.

During the first wave, Woolworths had security guards to enforce compliance, but no longer do and have said they will not enforce compliance in their stores.

Prior to this lockdown, the Director of Compliance, Liquor Gaming, Dimitri Argeres highlighted their compliance blitzes in the industry resulting in businesses being fined and court notices issued.

“….there is no excuses for not requiring patrons to sign in with the Service NSW QR Code,” said Dimitri Argere.

“At this stage of the pandemic, there is simply no excuse for not complying with the check-in requirements. Businesses must be vigilant with their QR code check-in, as this data will be vital in contact tracing….Significant penalties, including closure of a venue, apply for non-compliance,” Mr Argere said.

Mr Argere said several businesses on the Central Coast were fined for “not enforcing patron sign-in using the Service NSW QR code” and other businesses in Sydney had also been fined for covid breaches.

Commissioner Mick Fuller has also issued stern warnings for businesses which are not complying, including issuing 10 fines to a business in Leichardt before closing it.

NSW Police said they continue to “conduct regular proactive operations in relation to compliance with the Public Health Order.”

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