Essential item buying limits may be ending, but someone has to pay

Tens of thousands of staff will lose hours and jobs when pandemic demand ends.

supermarket shopper in confectionary aisle

Australian shoppers will benefit as supermarkets start to return to normal for the first time in months, but spare a thought for the casualties of normalcy.

Stocks will return to normal, even surplus, buying restrictions of ‘essential’ items will be lifted, product price drops will start to pop up on shelves and crowds of panic buyers will dissipate, but, as a result, so will the working hours for thousands of casual employees.

Around 32,000 casuals hired to help control panic-buying pandemic shopping are now having their hours reduced as demand levels out.

Thousands of staff brought on to manage shelf packing, enforce social distancing, receive and send deliveries and orders, clean and sanitise shopping trolleys, baskets and stores and the myriad extra checkout staff put on to process orders will soon join the employment casualty list headed up by the travel, hospitality, arts and freelance industries.

It wasn’t as though we didn’t see it coming.

“Clearly, big retailers that took on extra staff at the height of the pandemic were always going to have to return to ‘normal programming’ at some stage, but it’s always worrying when we hear about job losses – even if they were only ever temporary positions,” University of Tasmania senior marketing lecturer and retail expert Professor Louise Grimmer told The New Daily.

According to Retail and Fast Food Workers Union secretary Josh Cullinan, some supermarket staff have seen their shifts slashed with little to no warning, adding that many workers with changing shifts have seen their allocated shifts cut from five to one, with no notice.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association told news outlets it had received complaints from both long-term casuals and recent hires.

However, University of Adelaide employment law and workplace relations expert Andrew Stewart said casual workers had few rights and would be unlikely to file for unfair dismissal if they had worked casually for their employer for fewer than six months. Professor Stewart said supermarkets had openly hired workers with no formal guarantees on the working period.

Woolworths, which had put on 20,000 casuals during the crisis, claim many departing casual workers were returning to their regular jobs as restrictions lift and other sectors restart.

“As trading patterns continue to normalise, we’ll have fewer hours to offer than we did a couple of months ago,” said a Woolworths spokesperson.

While staff may be the casualties of relaxed restrictions and reduced demand on supermarkets, shoppers will benefit from oversupply and the resulting price drops introduced by retailers to offload excess stock.

Supermarkets have filled extra warehouses with bulky goods they ordered to cope with indefinite demand. However, it will be cheaper for them to offload these items sooner, rather than waiting for when demand returns, so, in stark contrast to a month or two ago, shoppers can expect to see ‘sale’ tickets on some shelves soon.

“In order to shift excess stock we will likely see promotions and discounts on formerly in-demand products,” said Dr Grimmer.

Currently, Coles has repealed all product limits on in-demand items.

Woolworths still has limits in place for antibacterial wipes, hand wash and frozen fruit, at a cap of two items per customer.

Are you glad to see the end of buying restrictions?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    1st Jun 2020
    Within 2 weeks Coles have doubled their delivery fee from free for over $100 value order to now it must be $200 value. Although the fee is "only" $12 , I believe this is unfair. A family might have $200 order but a single person might not.
    As Coles will no longer carry bags to my car, I am now at a disadvantage because of disability so decided it would be better for home delivery. Also that is better regarding isolation1
    Also I think a home delivery could be in boxes as thew paid bags mount up with home delivery. I know they recycle boxes but they could be used & then I would recycle them.
    1st Jun 2020
    They will never give out boxes, never, they like to preach how they are saving the planet by recycling and forget about to mention how much they get for recycling it.
    Play Fairly
    1st Jun 2020
    Polly, I think boxes would be an excellent idea for home deliveries. I certainly have gazillions of plastic 15cent bags too, probably along with many others.

    Even before Covid19 and the changes to Supermarket Shopping, what really astounded me when the long life bags were introduced, was the fact that they were always destined to eventually end up at refuse facilities, and because they are designed to last, they won't break down quickly when discarded as refuse.

    The Supermarkets previously used free grey plastic bags which disintegrate quickly in landfill, but not before they were repurposed for some other handy use around the home. Now we use (and pay for) these 15cent bags that will last indefinitely in landfill.

    I think we may have been conned. The only winners have been the Supermarkets.
    2nd Jun 2020
    Play fairly,
    Yes in some supermarkets did give free grey shopping bags. They were so weak that often you couldn't use them again even if you wanted to. On more than one occasion I had groceries fall through the bottom of them.
    You can use the white plastic bags several times, not buy more every time you go shopping.
    Sometimes I use the same one several times. When it eventually splits, then I put rubbish in it, not just put it to landfill empty. It helps to stop small non-recyclable rubbish from flying into the air when the bin is being emptied into the garbage truck too.
    You would be shocked to find out the cost of the bags our sliced bread is put in by the bakeries too.
    1st Jun 2020
    This article is just stating the obvious really

    This does not mean that I don't understand and feel how much harder life will be for many.
    1st Jun 2020
    To all the supermarkets who bought up all the canned spageti etc hoping to cash in on hoarding Hahahahahaha.
    1st Jun 2020
    Supermarkets didn't do the buying up big. The customers did!
    1st Jun 2020
    Just where do people get ideas like this? Do you ever stop to verify anything before passing on idle gossip.
    Sure plenty of greedy selfish customers will have enough stored away to feed themselves for years. The story I like best is of the man who bought up 5 thousand odd toilet rolls. He tried to sell them on eBay and was taken down A supermarket has turned him down too.
    Great inheritance for his heirs I hope!
    Horace Cope
    1st Jun 2020
    "Are you glad to see the end of buying restrictions?"

    I suppose that an end to restrictions is welcome but the limits placed on a lot of items being panic bought were sometimes higher than an average shopper would need. As regards the drop in employment, weren't those extra positions filled by people who had their jobs put on hold because of COVID-19? Wouldn't it be fair to assume that as the economy moves forward that those jobs put on hold will be restarted?
    1st Jun 2020
    Horace, you are trotting out the company line again, could it not be possible that the many unemployed at that time would be taken on, also, - or even mainly?
    I am not sure you can make your assumption, nor that it would be a good thing, - one, because those people are already covered by the stimulus, so probably want to wait until they get their old jobs back, which may take a lot longer yet, and two that people who were unemployed before will benefit much more if they can stay in their new jobs as a reference when the economy gets strong in the future.

    Also I don't think it is a good idea for everything to just go back to as it was before, there was too much wrong, that should not get put back in the box.

    Now is the time to fix things, not repeat the same old same old mistakes.
    Horace Cope
    1st Jun 2020
    Lookfar, I based my opinion on the government's request to supermarkets to try and employ people who had their jobs placed on hold. I have no idea if this happened just as you have no idea whether the jobs went to many unemployed. Not all of the people who lost their jobs were covered by the stimulus and I don't follow that people who were unemployed before can stay in their new jobs if those jobs disappear. Could you elaborate on what was too much wrong with the current system for us?
    1st Jun 2020
    I went shopping today and noticed that a few items are still missing, although, most of the shelves have been re-stocked. Feel sorry for some of the shoppers who panicked-bought the toilet papers etc, it will take them a little bit longer to used them up. Encountered an inconsiderate older shopper by blocking the exit lanes. When asked nicely to straighten her trolley, so i can push my trolley out, she retorted rudely that i was in a hurry. I was not, but she was a rude sour puss. Please, older shoppers, do not be selfish, have consideration for other shoppers.
    1st Jun 2020
    It’s not only older shoppers, LornaH, I’ve had to ask to ask younger shoppers to move their trolleys because two of them were chatting and blocking the entrance to an aisle.
    1st Jun 2020
    I don't feel sorry for all the panic buyers now left with excess sores at home at all, LornaH. They bought it and displayed totally selfish attitudes at the time when there was absolutely no need to panic buy anything. They made their bed, now they can lie on it.
    1st Jun 2020
    What gobsmacked me was the panic buying of flour! There was plenty of bread, cakes and biscuits on the shelves every day at our local Foodland, so people who have never baked are suddenly going to do so?? Now there is a large pile of sacks of flour that no-one is buying, perhaps shoppers having discovered that they don't know how to bake and didn't need to try.
    1st Jun 2020
    As demand levels out thousands of casuals will lose their jobs? After helping with the Pandemic panic buying?
    Where were those 32 thousand people before this all happened, obviously out of work, so why the commentary about loss of work when these people got work because of the pandemic.
    I never understand the media reporting this the way they do, those numbers true or false, seems to me, to be people who were already Centrelink connected before, they may have been given something to do because of pandemic panic buying, or if still being given Centrelink now will get govt help.
    The point is that all these jobs that are lost in this article were already non working people whose boss went broke or who got put off they now receive a centrelink payment, or do they ger paid by supermarkets???Now the question is that when they lose the supermarket panic buyer jobs, will they go onto the centrelink safety net. That has been forgotten in this article about job losses coming up, they were already not there before lifting or putting in place restrictions. We go back to status quo don't we? Where we start asking the government to provide infrastructure to get this nation working again, so that people don't need Centrelink safety?
    There is lots of contradiction and political interfering at the moment when a government over does payouts they are bashed by useless political scoring comments from Albanesi and Shorten , who both should retire! So the cost actually hasn't been as bad as they thought, any fool can understand that?
    Any way the political crap that the useless Labor party is doing during this crisis makes them the worst turncoats on earth, they blabber about helping people they are supposed to be the peoples and workers party and they are so far from it , its' a joke. Or they are the Joke. This is the time to drop politics and fix our homeland up. So get on with it PM Morrison, and shut the eff up Albo and Bill. Because you are simply shit stirrers at the moment! Stop blaming and do something useful.
    1st Jun 2020
    Well, you don't read or listen to the news!! It's really boring when people spout whatever comes into their heads without any research.
    Qantas had an arrangement with Woolworths to take on as many as they could of the 20,000 of their staff left without jobs as a result of the virus.l believe that went up to 30000.later. And what about Virgin staff? And what about all the other people who are out of work since their employers have had to shut down.
    1st Jun 2020
    In addition any one else see the contradictions after reading the line that the extra jobs handed out to cope with the panic buying , will be getting less and less, yet we still hear about shifts changed and jobs cut in half, well what was the panic for if the supermarkets were putting on up to 32 thousand "helpers" it all sound a bit bulldusty to me , and I guess we'll get the garbage types rising to the top again taking advantage of there's misfortunes.
    1st Jun 2020
    It has happened here in the last week or so, just as we start to use it again... E10 has gone up by over ten cents a litre and is close to or over a dollar a litre now.
    2nd Jun 2020
    The Coles and Woolworths outlets have been overpricing fuel for years. I'm surprised people use them. Must be business people who get the fuel tax off at tax time.
    2nd Jun 2020
    Rae, you think they are overpricing fuel. Check some of the BP / OTR. Some of them are even more expensive.
    Often the cheapest is United. Some country towns are actually cheaper than Metropolitan areas.
    1st Jun 2020
    What takes up room in the Supermarket aisles is those enormous trolleys used by staff to shop for home delivery customers. You always have to give way for them. Apart from that the aisles are so narrow it is impossible to leave 1.5 metres between you and someone else going in the opposite direction.
    1st Jun 2020
    Is there no end to all the whinging and whining on this site.?

    Just s few weeks ago people were complaining about people being employed from other affected industries at TEMPORARY staff in supermarkets. People complained about the reserved hours for the elderly and less abled then complained again when it was wound back.

    People employed under the TEMPORARY agreements could not expect to be retained when that TEMPORARY situation changed. Thsi is not news nor should it come as a surprise.

    Of course lets not mention the thousands of other jobs that are now being revived as other businesses begin to open up in tourism and hospitality - cafes, clubs, restaurants, bars, hotels, pubs, urban, regional and rural accommodation places re-open and the list goes on. And as intra and interstae travel also opens up so the airlines will need their staff back (many of whom were employed by the supermarkets!).

    Will some take longer to open, yes. Will some never reopen, yes. Will retail reopen further, yes. Will some shops never re-open yes. And it will be this way for quite some tie to come. But ultimately none of the businesses are charities and neither is the government.

    TEMPORARY solutions are just that TEMPORARY.
    2nd Jun 2020
    Well I will continue to order online and pay the fee . I believe it is less than what I wold spend impulse buying and I have more time to do other things I enjoy. I top up with items from the local private supermarket who have been brilliant with their social distancing and where I still feel comfortable wearing a mask.
    At the height of the pandemic, I remember saying to my partner that I looked forward to a time where I could feel safe just walking to the beach. Well I am almost to that point at the moment and although separated from my family, I am hopeful of boarders re-opening in the near future.
    Those who choose to whinge about trivial things need to turn on their TV and see what is going on in other parts of the world! We do have choices here. No it will not be easy - but a great deal easier than most of the world.
    4th Jun 2020
    Well said thoughtful.
    2nd Jun 2020
    I reckon the majority of the casuals would have been told the circumstances under which they were employed.
    Not all supermarkets have warehouses. Some IGA Supermarkets in SA, especially country ones open their cartons in such a way that they can be used by customers. Unfortunately some manufacturers only put cardboard at the bottom and a small strip around the sides and wrap them in a type of plastic to save the cost of cartons. It has to be sliced open to get the goods out so therefore customers can't make use of it. It has been happening for a few years.
    pedro the swift
    4th Jun 2020
    So supermarkets are now cutting hours for staff?? Well welcome to the capitiisticl society. Thats how our system works.

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