The Trades Union Congress in Blackpool: Risk of violence at work 'growing'

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The Independent Online
WORKERS are facing an unprecedented wave of violence throughout industry and the service sector, according to union leaders.

Congress was told employees were being threatened with hand grenades, guns, acid and axes.

Union leaders demanded that organisations provide greater protection for their workers and that the Government introduce tougher laws including legally enforceable minimum staffing levels.

Among the victims of growing violence were hospital staff, social security officials, post men and women, bank and building society personnel and firefighters.

Janet Atkinson, a community nurse, said her union, Cohse, was handling 1,000 cases a year from members who had been attacked at work. 'Verbal abuse and threats are now so commonplace that health workers look on them as part of the job. We don't want hospitals turned into fortresses, but employers must take steps to improve security.'

Armed raids on building societies and banks had doubled in two years, according to Peter Simpson, vice-president of the Banking Insurance and Finance Union. Robbers had used hand grenades, axes, pistols, stun guns and shotguns. Acid and ammonia attacks were on the increase since management removed screens to engender a more 'customer-friendly' atmosphere.

Mr Simpson called for improved security and better counselling for those who had been attacked. 'Victims live with their nightmares for the rest of their lives as well as the terrible physical injuries some of them suffer.'

For firefighters, a disturbing trend was that they were being seen as an arm of the police force. 'Firefighters have been shot at and stoned - it is not on. We are not part of the security forces. We are neutral,' Mr Cameron told the 900 delegates.

Attacks on post men and women had reached a record five a week, according to the Union of Communication Workers.

Post Office personnel were being threatened with acid, baseball bats, and shotguns. The dangers long faced by counter staff were now spreading to delivery workers on the streets.

TUC officials were urged to demand that the Government, the Health and Safety Executive and the European Community introduce safeguards and legally enforceable minimum staff levels.