October 29, 2015

Big increase in assaults on public service workers, says UNISON

UNISON Scotland's Violence at Work: A Survey of UNISON employers and Staff in Scotland 2015 shows an increase in assaults on their members working in the public sector in 2015 of 1,227 compared with 2014.

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

UNISON's survey asked staff the nature of the incident, how they had felt about it, and what action their managers had taken to try to make sure they were safer in the future. 

UNISON members reported

  • “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”
  • “an irate male jumped onto myself while I was seated at a computer”
  • “Screamed and swore at. Items thrown at me. Kicked punched bitten scratched nipped. Hair pulled. Strangled. Pushed, walking sticked wacked across me."
  • “Too many incidents to describe.”

Responants also reported feeling undervalued, frightened, afraid, disrespected and sick. One summed it up as being “really upset and in tears most nights after work.”                                 

Many UNISON members accepted it as part of the job.

Scott Donohoe chair of UNISON health and safety committee said, “The abuse of staff is intollerable 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." 

UNISAON says, 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 are introduced by managers.