Local government staff report high levels of violence and abuse

Workforce morale in local government has hit rock bottom as staff have reported high levels of violence and abuse.

A survey of 3,500 council workers across the UK, commissioned by public sector union Unison, revealed 60% of local government employees felt staff morale had worsened in the past year.

A major contributor was the high rate of violence and abuse against employees – 44% of respondents said they had experienced some form of violence or abuse in the past 12 months. Of those, 38% said they had been verbally abused, and 17% said they had been bullied at work.

Those most affected by violence were employed in the social services and teaching sectors.

With 36% of council workers reporting staff shortages in their teams, nearly two-thirds felt their workload and pressure had increased over the past year.

Survey respondents added greater recognition of staff input would be the best way to improve services in local government.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, said: “Tough jobs are made even tougher by violent incidents and abuse. Bullying from managers and verbal attacks from those they are trying to help are part of the daily lives of too many local government workers.

“The local government employers need to realise that morale is at an all-time low. We have already seen redundancies in local government. Staff and services are already stretched to breaking point.”

However Phil White, head of negotiations at the Local Government Employers, told Personnel Today “this is not a version of the local government workforce that we recognise”.

He said: “This survey paints a falsely bleak picture of the local government. There are problems with morale in the workplace across the economy, and that’s understandable in times of economic insecurity.

“Employees in the public sector are in a much better position generally than people in the private sector. In local government there is relative security in employment, and we don’t believe there is a bullying culture.”

Last month, unions rejected a 0.5% pay award offer for local government employees ahead of an imposed deadline, leaving staff at risk of a pay freeze.

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