Workers under threat

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More than 38,000 public sector workers were assaulted at work over the last year.

Staff working in the health service, councils, education and social work, the community and voluntary sectors, libraries and parking attendants were all victims of assault, according to public service union UNISON.

The union’s report Violence at Work: A Survey of UNISON employers and Staff in Scotland 2015 shows an increase of 1,227 assaults compared with 2014.

Nine out of ten people who responded to the survey were women, and well over half were aged between 45 and 60 years of age.

Describing the abuse of staff as intolerable and unacceptable, Scott Donohoe, chairman of UNISON’s health and safety committee, commented: “The abuse of staff is intolerable and no one should have to experience it as part of their work. 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. We would urge employers to follow guidelines like the ones set out in the Centre for Healthy Working Lives Managing occupational violence in the workplace”.

UNISON members described being bitten, threatened with ‘weapons’, head butted, kicked, grabbed, punched, having things thrown at them and event attempted strangulation.