1700 Fife public service workers were victims of violence - in one year

Nurse attacked by patient. (Posed by models)
Nurse attacked by patient. (Posed by models)
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Last year in Fife 1700 public service workers were the victims of violence and now the union UNISON has called for better protection for staff.

In the last eight years violent incidents against public sector staff almost doubled.

The figures are revealed in UNISON’s annual survey of violent incidents in Fife 1114 health board workers and 586 council employees were affected.

Scott Donohoe, chairman of UNISON Scotland’s Health and Safety Committee, made the plea: “To seriously tackle violence against staff we need proper monitoring, backed up by effective workplace measures to minimise the risks, also better legal protection for workers in the civil and criminal courts.”

UNISON’s Scottish organiser Dave Watson commented: “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.”

37,052 incidents to public service employers were reported last year – up 3,363 and almost double the 20,000 reported when the first survey was first conducted in 2006. Council workers, who have suffered four out of five job cuts in Scotland are seeing a year on year increase in violent incidents - 15,729 last year alone and increase of 850 on the previous year.

There were 330 convictions under the Emergency Workers Act last year, but according to UNISON the limited scope of the Act means that few violent incidents result in criminal action and, the union claims, efforts to address this were blocked by the Scottish Government when they opposed Hugh Henry MSP’s, Protection of Worker’s Bill. The UK Government has cut the Criminal Injury Compensation scheme, hitting workers.

Mr Watson will presented the annual survey of violent incidents to UNISON Scotland’s health and safety conference at Stirling University last week, when he welcomed improvements in data recording, but complained that some public bodies are still failing to collate data properly. “If they can’t collate data – they don’t know where to take the necessary action,” he said, highlighting council workers.