That any employee should suffer the trauma of being assaulted whilst at work is totally unacceptable and for statistics to reveal that local authority staff in the region were physically, or verbally, abused more than 12,900 times over the past three years is frankly abhorrent.
Those staff, many no doubt already feeling under pressure due to cuts to local services, are there to do a job – and whether that is as a care worker, teacher, housing officer, parking warden, or otherwise, they should be able to get on with it without the fear of violence or harassment.
Unions say the scale of attacks was a direct result of what they call “chronic underfunding” of the public sector and frustrations being taken out on staff. However, such behaviour cannot be justified; council employees, quite rightly, do not expect to go to work to be punched, kicked or bitten – and measures must be put in place to stop that from happening.
In the words of Unison’s regional organiser Karen Loughlin: “We need a systematic approach to ensure staff remain free from verbal and physical assaults. Everybody is entitled to a safe working environment.”
Individuals who attack emergency service workers including police, prison officers and paramedics now face longer jail terms, after the so-called Protect the Protectors Bill, first introduced by Halifax MP Holly Lynch in 2016 and supported by The Yorkshire Post, gained Royal Assent in September. And calls are now being made for the greater protection of frontline council staff and teachers, with the GMB union’s political officer in Yorkshire, Steve Jennings, claiming they should receive similar protections to emergency workers. This ought to be given serious consideration, for, as today’s figures clearly show, they, too, are in need of safeguarding from harm.