Edinburgh Airport: Attacks on check-in staff are a symptom of a growing problem with violence that society must address – Scotsman comment

Doctors, nurses, shopworkers, airport staff and more should be able to do their jobs without fear of assault or abuse

“They shout and bawl. They get so in your face and are screaming so loud that you can feel their spit… I’ve had a bag thrown at my head. I’ve had someone slap my hand away from their bag and push me against the wall... We get asked how we can live with ourselves or sleep at night?… Some of them will tell you they’re going to be waiting for you when you finish your shift.”

This is an account by one woman of what it can be like to work at an Edinburgh Airport check-in desk. And, according to the GMB union, more than 60 per cent of their members who work as Swissport check-in staff have been physically attacked or abused by passengers. The situation has become so dire that it is now threatening to take industrial action unless they are better protected.

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It should be clear that the people at fault here are those who choose to descend to violence and foul language. Whatever frustrations we may experience in life, there is absolutely no excuse to treat fellow human beings with such contempt.

Yet it seems that far too many people are doing just that with alarming regularity. In 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a law making it a specific offence to assault, threaten or abuse shop workers because of the frequency of such incidents. And recent figures showed that the police had been called out to hospitals and health centres nearly 10,000 times over the past five years, with 4,000 related to violence.

In straitened times, public services have been stretched to the bone and many private companies have sought to cut costs and corners, resulting in some deeply frustrating experiences. However, whatever happens, we must remain calm. It is often the case that the problem has not actually been caused by the person delivering the bad news. And, even if it is their fault, who among us is perfect?

Staff, public or private, should be given the resources to provide a decent service, but all of us must endeavour to make violence and abuse even more socially unacceptable than it already is.



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