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October 19, 2009

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Public sector failing on staff assaults

Unison Scotland is urging the Scottish Government and local authorities

to do more to reduce the number of violent assaults on public-sector


The call follows a report presented at the union’s annual health and safety conference earlier this month, which found that more than 25,000 assaults on staff were recorded for the year 2008/09.

The figures, which were obtained through Freedom of Information requests from employers or Unison members, indicate a rise in the number of violent attacks on local government workers, although, overall, the total has fallen by more than 7000, from last year’s figure of 32,267.

The Centre for Healthy Working Lives has established a task group to develop best-practice guidelines on how local government should report assault statistics. Once these are published, Unison Scotland has pledged to seek confirmation from each local authority as to how the proposals will be implemented.

Dave Watson, the union’s Scottish organiser, said: “It is clear that where rigorous monitoring and active preventative measures are in place, this has resulted in improvements for the health and safety of our members. But some employers are clearly failing to monitor violent assaults effectively and, as a result, are failing to do enough to protect their staff.”

The union is also throwing its weight behind Hugh Henry MSP’s proposed Workers (Aggravated Offences) (Scotland) Bill, which would create a new offence of assaulting, obstructing, or hindering someone who is acting in their capacity as a worker while providing a face-to-face service for the public.

Said Watson: “The Bill aims to build on the Emergency Workers Act but to widen it to more public-sector workers and to include private-sector workers who provide a service to the public, such as shop workers.”

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