“A colleague had a microwave thrown at him. He was told by his manager that it was something to be expected.”
That was just one example that UNISON’s community conference in Southport heard when it debated violence at work today.
Scotland’s Ian Williamson – whose colleague encountered the thrown microwave – told delegates that research showed that one in eight workers experience violence at work.
With 31 million people employed in the UK workforce, that means that four million can expect to experience violence while carrying out their jobs, he said.
And as John Gray from the national executive pointed out, there is a problem of massive under-reporting of violence in care work, housing, charities and the community and voluntary sector as a whole.
Dave Nicholson from the union’s Capability Scotland branch reported that a quick survey of colleagues revealed stories of being spat at, sworn at, nipped, bit, hit ,kicked and more,.
Alex Harris of Glasgow told conference: “I was assaulted at work” and when she told her manager, who herself had experienced violence, the response was: “Welcome to the club”.
Conference called for zero-tolerance of assaults on staff and demanded that employers properly record and report workplace assaults, while also calling for the union to collate examples of good practice, provide guidance for branches and reps on tackling violence and work with community and voluntary organisations to tackle the issue.
As Rachel Townsend from the union’s housing associations branch told delegates: “Neglecting staff assaults is also neglecting service users”.
She called on employers to provide training and support so staff could safely support those who need their help.