Violence against public sector staff has doubled

VIOLENCE against public sector workers has nearly doubled over the past eight years and remains on the rise, a union has warned.

Council workers protest in Edinburgh. Violence against public sector staff has nearly doubled in the last eight years. Picture: TSPL

There were 37,052 incidents reported to public service employers last year, up 3,363 on the previous year and almost double the 20,000 in 2006, when Unison began its survey.

Over two-fifths of the attacks were on council workers, with another year-on-year increase of 850 incidents to a total of 15,729.

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Unison has welcomed improvements in data recording, but it said some public bodies are still failing to collate data properly and if they cannot collate data they don’t know where to take the necessary action.

Scottish organiser Dave Watson will present the union’s annual survey of violent incidents to Unison Scotland’s health and safety conference at Stirling University today.

He said: “It is entirely unacceptable for staff who serve the public to be assaulted for simply doing their job. These statistics record reported incidents and are therefore only the tip of the iceberg of misery faced by workers across Scotland’s public services.

“The biggest increase in violent incidents is happening in those services that have suffered staffing cuts. Workers are stretched too thinly, dealing with service users who are coping with cuts in the services they rely on. This is a toxic cocktail that is putting hard pressed workers at greater risk of violent assault.”

Scott Donohoe, chair of Unison Scotland’s health and safety committee, said: “To seriously tackle violence against staff we need proper monitoring, backed up by effective workplace measures to minimise the risks. We also need better legal protection for workers in the civil and criminal courts.”

There were 330 convictions under the Emergency Workers Act last year, but Unison said the “limited scope” of the Act means few violent incidents result in criminal action.

The union has also criticised the Scottish Government for its opposition to Labour MSP Hugh Henry’s Protection of Worker’s Bill, and the UK Government which it said has undermined protection for workers with cuts to the criminal injury compensation scheme.