Dunedin stabbing: PM Jacinda Ardern reflects on past job as supermarket checkout operator after Countdown attack

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reflected on her own experience as a checkout operator following the Dunedin supermarket stabbing this week.

Four people were critically and seriously injured on Monday afternoon after a man allegedly stabbed them at Countdown Dunedin Central on Cumberland St. 

Two of the victims worked at the supermarket, and the other two were members of the public who intervened in a bid to protect staff and shoppers.

Ardern told More FM's Breakfast Club on Wednesday she was "passing on our thoughts and best wishes" to everyone involved in the "very traumatic event".

She also recounted one of her first jobs working in a supermarket, saying she understood the realities of the job.

"I used to be a checkout operator and I do remember that sometimes you would encounter - because you encounter everybody - you will sometimes encounter people who are in distressful situations or maybe in particular circumstances where they are having a bit of a moment or a break.

"We just need to make sure when that happens, we are looking after the people who are working for us."  

Following the stabbing, Countdown has considered implementing new security measures to protect staff.

General manager of safety at Countdown Kiri Hannifan said abuse and assaults are too common for supermarket workers.

"[There have been] threats to kill, threats of abuse - terrible, terrible abuse - every day. It's been a very, very tough 18 months for our team in New Zealand." 

In April 2020, Countdown reported a 600 percent increase in abuse since the alert level 4 lockdown was implemented.

At the time, Newshub spoke to multiple customers who said they had seen people getting "grumpy" or "abusing" staff, seemingly for no reason. 

Ardern told the Breakfast Club supermarkets had been considering bringing in further security measures since then.

"We have been talking even since COVID-19 about some of what those who are working in supermarkets are facing through that period when people were getting really agitated when they were going through supermarkets," she said.

"It was a very stressful time and it was one of only a few places that were open. I think that probably doesn't take into account that they have been facing some pressure for some time. 

"I know [supermarkets] have been working directly with the police on what they can do to ensure the safety of their staff and that is something that I really want to just encourage that the organisation and the police keep on working together.

"They do other work with similar high-risk environments, but they shouldn't be high-risk - they are a supermarket."

Countdown confirmed on Tuesday it is considering trialling body cameras on retail staff following the stabbing.