The rising trend of third party violence must be reversed
The rising trend of third party violence must be reversed Following the third and final regional workshop of the European social partner project on Implementing the Multisectoral Guidelines on Third Party Violence, EPSU calls on all relevant actors to do more to halt the trend of increasing violence in the workplace and to put an end this intolerable phenomenon.
EPSU and our affiliates reiterate that violence in the workplace, whatever its provenance or form, is unacceptable. All workers, including women and men working in public services have the right to carry out their functions in dignity and without fear of personal attack. Austerity measures which primarily focus on cutting public sector expenditure, including job losses and the reduction or withdrawal of services, will impact on the quality and delivery of public services. Public sector workers are on the front line – helping people find work, providing advice about all sorts of benefits and services, caring for them when they are sick and vulnerable. They also bear the brunt of people’s frustrations which can all too often spill over into acts of violence and harassment.
It is increasingly apparent that violence, bullying and harassment are becoming regular features in many European workplaces. Information presented by the participants at the three regional workshops, which took place in London, Rome and Prague between May and September, confirm the findings of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) report  published in January 2011 that workplace violence is on the rise. Statistics collected by the European Risk Observatory (a section of EU-OSHA) show that third party violence and harassment affects between 5%-20% of European workers.
Additionally, the data shows that there are more victims of third party violence - i.e. violence from members of the public or others external to the organisation - than victims of violence from other colleagues. Whilst the incidences, definitions and reporting of third party violence differs among countries, it is clear that workers in the healthcare, social work, education, public administration, commerce and private security sectors are particularly at risk. A common theme among the workshop participants was that third-party violence was believed to be on the increase and that the economic crisis and austerity measures being imposed in many countries was likely to make the situation worse. At a time when public sector workers are expected to “do more with less”, the multi-sectoral guidelines are important to ensure that workers can do their work in a healthy and safe environment that will ensure a quality service.
On 16 July 2010, EPSU, representing workers in local and regional government and health and social services, together with seven other European sectoral social partners adopted Multi-sectoral Guidelines on Third Party Violence  , which complement the cross-sectoral Framework Agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work adopted in 2007  . The guidelines aim to support actions by employers and workers to reduce and mitigate third-party violence at work and its many consequences. EPSU and our social partner counterparts launched a project, with funding from the European Commission, to disseminate the guidelines via three regional workshops and a final conference which will take place in Warsaw in October.
For more information contact Pablo Sanchez, psanchez epsu.org , 00 32 4 74 62 66 33
1. EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions, comprising 8 million public service workers from over 250 trade unions across Europe and including in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood 2. Workplace Violence and Harassment: a European Picture, EU-OSHA 31.01.2011 3. Multi-sectoral Guidelines to tackle Third Party Violence and Harassment related to Work adopted by EPSU, UNI Europa, ETUCE, HOSPEEM, CEMR, EFEE, Eurocommerce, and CoESS on 16 July 2010 http://www.epsu.org/a/6782 4. Framework agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work adopted by ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP and UEAPME on 26 April 2007 http://www.etuc.org/a/3574