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Date: Tuesday 15 January 2008

Law must avoid two-tier protection for public service workers - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's public service union, today called for the proposed Government extension to the Emergency Workers' Act to cover all staff delivering health care and other emergency services in Scotland's communities - not just doctors and nurses as they currently plan.

In a briefing the union asked the Justice Committee (today -15 January) to request further legislation to cover other staff affected, such as GP receptionists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social work staff, home carers and many others when they consider the proposed new legislation today.

UNISON also said they were disappointed that the rushed nature of the new legislation would create a two-tier system.

UNISON's Scottish Organiser, Dave Watson said "While it is welcome that a small number of extra people are now to be covered by this legislation, it is very disappointing that the government extension has not even followed the principles in the original law and included staff assisting the workers covered. It plans to open up a two-tier system where staff are covered by virtue of their qualifications and job, even if they are working alongside the doctors or nurses affected. For example if a nurse and a therapist are attacked visiting someone at home - the nurse would be covered by the new Act - the therapist would not.

"The Act is called the Emergency Workers Act - not the Emergency Health Workers Act - it was intended to cover all types of public service workers in emergency situations. In fact it should also cover public service workers in non-emergency situations, like social care workers in residential care and home care; education workers in schools; environmental officers tracking illegal dumping and enforcing safety legislation; traffic wardens and community safety wardens; utility workers; as well as many other health service workers who have to put up with unacceptable behaviour from the public and clients."

The union is calling on the Justice Committee, who consider the Modification Order at their meeting today to request further legislation to cover both other staff assisting doctors and nurses, and other public service workers delivering services in the community.

The Emergency Workers Act covers emergency workers such as police, firefighters, and ambulance staff and includes nursing, and other medical staff involved in responding to an emergency in hospitals. It can also include social work staff in very narrowly limited circumstances.

Note for editors: A copy of the briefing is available from Chris Bartter - below or by clicking here


For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)