“If a government announces that masks are mandatory, the police should enforce the law, to do otherwise puts the health and safety of retail workers and shoppers at risk as well as sending a mixed message to the community,” he said.
“Retail workers should not be required to enforce the law, that is the job of the police.”
The union has asked the state government to ensure police are present in locations such as shopping centres to crack down on unmasked shoppers, and if not enough police are available to do so, to call the Australian Defence Force in to help.
Fellow retail union the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) made similar calls on Tuesday, saying retail employees should leave it up to police or management to handle the issue of wearing of masks in-store.
“That responsibility falls fairly and squarely on the employer, not to staff,” it said. “Security and police should be provided, if need be, to make sure the safety of workers is protected.”
However, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald understand that it will be up to workplaces to enforce the policy, with directions to alert authorities if people do not comply.
On Monday, a number of major Melbourne retailers, including Bunnings, David Jones and Kmart, said they would ban entry for any customers not wearing a mask.
However, major supermarket Woolworths confirmed the business would not refuse service to non-mask wearers because there was a “range of personal circumstances where masks aren’t recommended”. Coles said it would await further clarification from the government.
Security guards at major shopping centres, which are still able to trade under stage three restrictions, will remind customers to wear masks. If any customer refuses, the centres will call police.
Australia’s major retail organisations, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the National Retail Association (NRA), have both recommended retailers refuse entry to non-mask wearers and to call the police if disagreements flare.
“If situations escalate, we remind all retailers to contact your local police as enforcement of these rules is not the responsibility of your staff,” the NRA said.
Victoria Police and the Department of Health did not respond to questions prior to publication.
Dominic Powell writes about the retail industry for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.