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National Delegate Conference 17-20 June 2008

Gun and knife crime: Unions must tackle causes and protect staff

by Kate Ramsden

Conference agreed that trade unions must take a lead in tackling the scourge of gun and knife crime in our society, and backed a measured motion, which seeks to address the causes in communities in partnership with other concerned groups rather than overreacting to the results which can make the problem worse.

In the debate, conference heard harrowing accounts from people directly affected by the rise in gun and knife crime, both as relatives and friends of victims and as public service workers dealing with the human pain.

Maggie Jack
Maggie Jack

Maggie Jack, Glasgow City Branch, speaking for the first time at conference told delegates that in Glasgow, they know a bit about gun and knife crime and a bit about disaffected young people. "We know about the most disenfranchised people in our city because we work with and for them," she said.

"And we know that public sector workers up and down the UK come up against the anger and frustrations of people who are excluded from hope," added Maggie.

"And the other thing we know in Glasgow, and everyone here knows also, is that there is already an unacceptable level of violence perpetrated against public sector workers. We fear, on behalf of our members, that employers will continue to fail to protect them unless action is taken now."

She pointed out that UNISON has called for risk assessments in all situations with the potential for violence and has encouraged the reporting of all threats and assaults. She called for an overall protective strategy.

"We want UNISON to shout louder now," said Maggie. "It is right that UNISON should be at the forefront of a campaign for investment in young people as opposed to legislation that penalises them, but UNISON must also put pressure on employers to introduce adequate and effective measures to protect front-line workers from the increasing threat of violence."