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Date: Thu 25 October 2012

Public service staff face 'toxic cocktail' of cuts and violence at work - UNISON

A 'toxic cocktail' of cutbacks and violence against public service workers has resulted in a huge increase in the number of violent incidents reported to employers, according to a survey by UNISON Scotland.

The union's annual survey of violent incidents reported to public service employers shows that 34,739 staff reported violent incidents last year - almost 15,000 more than when it was first conducted in 2006.

Scott Donohoe, chair of UNISON Scotland’s Health and Safety Committee, said:
"The biggest increase in violent incidents is happening in those council services that are facing the brunt of spending cuts. Staff are stretched too thinly, dealing with service users facing cuts in the services they rely on. This is a toxic cocktail that is putting hard pressed workers at greater risk of violent assault."

UNISON's Scottish Organiser Dave Watson will present the survey results to the UNISON's health and safety conference at Stirling University on Friday 26 October.

Dave Watson said:
"The latest figures demonstrate an appalling level of violent incidents faced by staff who are simply doing their job."

The report shows 34,739 staff reported incidents last year. This compares to 20,000 incidents when the first survey was undertaken in 2006.

There has been a big increase over the last year in incidents in local government by 2257 to 14274. While there has been a marked improvement in reporting that may explain some of the increase, there are also 7,000 fewer staff working for councils.

The NHS shows a further decrease over the last year in incidents by 967 to 10,974. However, the two largest health boards (Glasgow and Lothian) were unable to produce figures this year, so these figures have to be treated with caution.

Dave Watson criticised employers who failed to produce figures:
"While we are pleased that many employers are improving their systems, others have obviously got some way to go. If they can’t produce decent statistics they cannot be tackling the problem”.

Convictions under the Emergency Workers Act have increased over the last year by 44 to 324. Due to the limited scope of the Act few violent incidents result in criminal action. Efforts to address this were blocked by the Scottish Government when they opposed Hugh Henry MSP’s, Protection of Worker’s Bill.

Dave Watson said:
"Employers must redouble their efforts to protect workers and the Scottish Government must play its role by strengthening the criminal law."


Note for editors:
The UNISON Scotland Survey of Violence at Work 2012 is online here:

For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, on 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, UNISON Scotland, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877000
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer, UNISON Scotland, 0141 342 2877 or 078765 66978