Public service workers need better protection

Public Service workers facing abuse, threats and violence deserve better protection, enshrined in legislation.

That’s the view of Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie, who is supporting a bill to tackle “aggravated offences” against workers.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Cathy noted that there had been a 78 per cent increase in recorded incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers in Scotland during the past three years.

“Four out of five shop workers reported verbal abuse and two out of five reported threats of violence in the past year.”

Although the Emergency Workers Act had reduced the threat to some workers, Cathy highlighted others who are not covered.

“The risks that emergency workers such as medical staff face may often be shared by non-emergency workers such as porters. There are various categories of workers employed by councils, utilities and agencies who could be involved in emergencies but are not covered by the 2005 act.

“There are also many workers in non-emergency situations who are put at risk in the course of providing a public service. Workers in our shops, public services and leisure facilities are too often subject to abuse and threats of violence. We must recognise and help all workers whose work with the public puts them at risk. The risk of assault that care workers face is twice the national average. For nurses, the risk is four times the national average. In 2007-08, there were more than 9,000 assaults on local government workers, which was an increase of more than 3,000 from the previous year.”

Cathy referred to violence in betting shops, and attacks on taxi drivers, bus drivers, postal workers, and noting the recent stabbing of knife crime campaigner Stephen Timms MP, Cathy reminded MSPs that they and their staff were also at risk, with politicians and their staff having been injured and killed in the course of their work.

“Incidents leave people in fear of being attacked, can be very traumatic and have a devastating impact on workers by creating insecurity and undermining their confidence in their ability to work.

“We should do anything we can do to protect workers and give them confidence in the law’s ability to protect them. We need to do our job of protecting public servants as they go about their daily work.”

Speech – http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/meetingsParliament/or-10/sor0520-02.htm#Col26406

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