'Pākehā customers' abusing frontline workers

By Taroi Black

Supermarket worker Kalein Howard is pleading with the government for better protection over abuse and racial discrimination from Pākehā customers.

Essential workers are regarded as heroes of the pandemic. But Te Ao Māori News received images of bruises shown on workers' arms, legs and a cut lip. 

Because of that, Howard fears for her life and decided to stay home.   

“I didn't want to put my whānau in harm's way. So, I opted out of working in this lockdown because of the threats - the racist comments I've had.”

Her colleagues have also reported customers not wearing masks, which poses a risk to their health. 

Yesterday, 40 Pak'nSave, New World and Countdown supermarkets were reported as locations of interest.  But the government has been adamant that food chain stores are a low-risk area, which Howard disputes.

“That just goes to show they're not looking at it from our point of view.”

Even before the lockdown, supermarket workers union was pursuing a 'Healthy Staffing and Healthy Stores' campaign, which also wants the Living Wage paid.

According to the Prime Minister, in this latest batch of cases today the most common infection event in this set of results was at supermarkets.

“Supermarkets need safer staffing levels and I know that for a fact because I know on a good day it's bad,” Howard says.

Taking action

While Aucklanders continue to brace themselves in Alert level 4 lockdown, the Albany Pak'nSave has seen no cases so far.

Store owner Jason Witehira is taking an extra step to make sure his 350 staff are protected and vaccinated.   

“Unfortunately other businesses have become locations of interest and with that process our key focus is to be consistent on our cleaning and hygenic processes within our building,” Witehira says.

If racism is affecting your mental health:

The Ministry of Health has mental health and wellbeing resources to support you:

  • 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor. 
  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or free text 4357 (HELP)
  • Youthline – 0800 376 633 or free text 234
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666
  • If you’re experiencing online bullying, abuse or harassment based on your colour, race, ethnicity or nationality:
  • Netsafe has a free and confidential service to help.

If you want to report racism, get in touch with:

  • NZ Police on 111
  • Call the Human Rights Commission to report a human rights complaint – 0800 496 877