Many jobs involve contact with the public, so the risk of falling prey to third-party violence at the workplace (also known as “external violence”) is very high. External violence can take on several forms: verbal, physical or psychological abuse, or rudeness against a worker doing his/her job. The symposium took place in the context of the rising violence at work registered by CESI member organisations representing public sector workers.
With the participation of the newly elected Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony, the symposium provided an opportunity for views’ exchange among CESI affiliates and members from the EU Member States. Important role in this process were the inputs by external experts Tim Tregenza, Network Manager at the EU Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA), Mariko Ouchi, Senior Specialist at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Janina Lara Dressler, Adviser for violence prevention at the Berlin fire brigades, Monique Van Limpt, Psychologist, Master of Labour and Organization. The event was moderated by Dirk Anton Van Mulligen, Leadership consultant at “Habilis Mens in Werk”.
The European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI) considers essential to tackle the problem of third-party violence in public service with a #NoViolenceAtWork campaign to be launched in 2020, producing an animation video stressing the role and importance of public services’ workers for the entire European society.
Klaus Heeger, CESI Secretary-General said during the event: “Whenever workers experience violence in exercising their functions, be it verbal or physical, or psychological they have to know that they are not left alone. Through this project and the campaign #NoViolenceAtWork, CESI also wants to convey the message that trade unions’ role is to support workers all over Europe with preventing and accompanying measures in situations of violent behaviours.”
The impact of the crisis, the restructuring processes that have taken place and resulted in a reduction of the number of workers, budget cuts and a shortage of resources have all worsened the situation because the services provided do not always meet the public’s expectations. Public services often become the target of dissatisfaction or social frustration for which the State and society get blamed. Research reports on the subject of third-party violence at work stress the greater vulnerability of women, particularly as regards violence of a sexual nature (whether verbal or physical).
CESI’s project began with two “[email protected]” regional meetings, one in Berlin on 29 March 2019 and the other in Madrid on 21 June 2019, and even before the official launching of the project a first regional event on the topic had taken place in The Hague in 2018. The aim of these regional meetings has been to provide a platform for true testimonies of such violence and present initiatives and best practices to prevent and deal with situations of violence in order to define efficient solutions for the field.
Romain Wolff, CESI President said: “Violence has risen in society in general, not only in the world of work. A general effort is needed by many actors to deal with this situation. Public sector workers work for society, to provide services of general interest to citizens, so it is important to guarantee good and safe working conditions.”