Campaign Launched to End Violence at Work Across Dumfries and Galloway

A new campaign to wipe out violence at work in Dumfries and Galloway was launched at leading public sector UNISON’s local branch AGM this week with a survey being issued to all support workers in schools, nurseries, and education centres.


The first phase of the campaign is to address the high level of problems support staff face with violence and disruptive behaviour by pupils.


An emergency motion highlighting the plight of support staff in schools and other education establishments proposed by health and safety officer Karen Korus was unanimously agreed by members.


Karen said “This is the first stage of a campaign against violence at work for all public sector employees working for the council, the health service and in social care. Our message is that violence is not part of the job and employers must recognise this.
“School support staff continue to be at the forefront of verbal, physical aggression from pupils. They are the ones who are expected to deal with the most challenging behaviours on a day-to-day basis. In Dumfries and Galloway there have been reports of primary school support staff subjected to verbal abuse, physical aggression, and violence towards them and even in nursery schools there are reports of staff being subjected to violence from very young children.
“We are sending a survey out to all support staff from classroom assistants to janitors, cleaners to technicians, cooks to early years practitioners and office staff to playground supervisors. Support staff in schools, nurseries, early years, and education centres are often on casual contracts, are low paid, work two, three and more jobs to make ends meet. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these workers are women.
“Yet without support staff our schools can’t function as last year’s three-day strike demonstrated, closing down all schools across Dumfries & Galloway to pupils.”


Meanwhile UNISON’s NHS Convener, Callum MacColl spoke of another challenging year for NHS workers, particularly over winter when staff struggled to cope with high numbers of admissions, delayed discharges, patients doubling up in single occupancy rooms, being cared for in corridors and ambulances being delayed due to lack of bed capacity at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.


“Unison are obviously keen that this isn’t allowed to happen again this year and we are involved in contingency planning and identifying surge beds to prevent such a reoccurrence.”


He also spoke of the “dire financial position” NHS Dumfries and Galloway is in at the moment and the projected additional deficit of £35 million.


“The fact that we’re not the only board in this financial black hole is of little comfort and staff are understandably concerned about where the axe will inevitably have to fall. There are
discussions taking place at present around how we can make the saving required by the Scottish Government and UNISON are directly involved in these difficult discussions.”

On a positive note, Callum revealed over 300 healthcare support workers were being upgraded from Band 2 to Band 3 as part of a joint review. The Band 5 nurse review starts in April.


Also at the AGM, branch secretary Jan Andrews and branch chair Phil McGroggan continue in their roles for another year.