MSPs Briefing - Protection of Emergency
On Thursday 15th January 2004 there will be an Executive
Debate in the Scottish Parliament on Protection of Emergency Workers.
UNISON Scotland welcomes this timely debate in the Scottish Parliament,
particularly given the increased incidence of assaults and violence
towards public sector workers and the recent publication of the
Executive's proposals for protecting emergency workers.
This briefing covers this issue and related matters
that may be raised during the debate.
Protecting Emergency Workers – Scottish Executive
UNISON Scotland welcomes the overall direction
of the Executives proposals for protecting emergency workers.
Much of what is contained in these proposals UNISON Scotland finds
positive and is supportive of. We are pleased that the Executive
has recognised the nature and the scale of the problem in relation
to violence against workers in the public services and that it
is intent on bringing forward legislation that will afford greater
legal protection to public service workers. However, there are
areas where we feel the Executive can strengthen the proposed
Which groups of emergency workers should
UNISON Scotland believes that attacks on any staff delivering
public services should be treated under the law as serious assaults,
not just attacks on emergency workers. The experiences of our
membership and the results of recent crime surveys informs us
that in practice the most vulnerable workers are not necessarily
emergency service workers – all workers who deal with the public
are at risk. UNISON Scotland believes the proposed legislation
to be too narrow in focus and urges the Executive to consider
enacting legislation, which would offer all public service workers
the same level of legal protection.
How to define an emergency situation?
UNISON Scotland believes that the emphasis of the new legislation
should be on the activities the victim was conducting at the time
of an assault, not on whether these activities where conducted
during an emergency or non-emergency situation. We believe that
the risks faced by public service workers in both emergency and
non-emergency situations are fundamentally the same.
The need to introduce a statutory aggravation charge
UNISON Scotland is disappointed at the Executive's reluctance
to introduce a statutory aggravation charge (replacing common
law aggravation) to cover attacks on all workers delivering a
public service. We do not agree with the Executive's assertion
that the introduction of a statutory aggravation offence to cover
attacks on public service workers would weaken protection for
UNISON Scotland believes that public service trade unions will
have a clear role to play in ensuring the success of any campaign
to educate service users on a zero tolerance of violence at work.
We believe that the key priorities for any future campaign can
best be identified through dialogue with all the key stakeholders
including trade unions. It is also our view that public bodies
need to take assaults on staff more seriously and put in place
effective measures to protect staff.
As stated, UNISON Scotland is supportive of much
of the Executive's proposals to afford greater legal protection
to emergency workers. However, there are areas where we feel the
Executive can strengthen the proposed legislation, the most important
being that attacks on any staff delivering public services
should be treated under the law as serious assaults, not just
attacks on emergency workers.
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