Increase in assaults on public service workers ‘unnaceptable’

Attacks on public service workers have increased by 1,227  since last year.Picture: Getty
Attacks on public service workers have increased by 1,227 since last year.Picture: Getty
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An “unacceptable” increase in the number of assaults on public service workers has been condemned by union leaders.

Unison Scotland has published its Violence at Work survey which highlights an increase of 1,227 assaults compared with 2014.

The total number of recorded assaults on public sector workers in Scotland in 2015 was 38,279. This compares to 20,000 in 2006.

Unison’s report included a survey, to ask what staff had suffered, how they had felt about it, and what action their managers had taken to try to make sure they were safer in the future.

Nine out of ten people who responded were women, and well over half were aged between 45-60 years old.

Issues that members described include “patient was verbally abusive and looming over me”; “bitten, being threatened with ‘weapons’, head butted, kicked, things been thrown at me, verbal abuse, pushed and shoved, cornered with threatening behaviour”; “grabbed, attempted strangle, punched, slapped, glasses broken” and “too many incidents to describe”.

Unison members also revealed they felt undervalued, frightened, afraid, disrespected and sick. One summed it up as being “really upset and in tears most nights after work”.

Many members accepted it as “Fine. It’s my job”. Others said they were “mostly sad for the people that have resorted to violence”; “not great obviously but its my job and sometimes these things happen, we just have to deal with it”.

Scott Donohoe, chairman of Unison health and safety committee said: “The abuse of staff is intolerable and no-one should have to experience it as part of their work.

“This level of violence is simply unacceptable. There is no doubt the recording continues to improve, however the problem is clearly growing, rather than decreasing.

“Public service workers have a right to carry out their duties free from fear of attack.

“Whatever the difficulties faced by some of those who are assaulting staff we need to ensure special measures such as extra training, additional staffing or sanctions should be introduced by managers.”