Bullied council workers “suffering in silence”

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By Cara Sulieman

ALMOST 400 council workers have complained about being bullied to their bosses in the past three years – but union officials say this is just the tip of the iceberg as many staff members “suffer in silence”.

And the figures – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – are only for 20 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities as many do not record the information, something Unison says needs to be changed.

Surveys carried out by the trade union show that 32 per cent of workers are “suffering in silence” from bullying in the workforce.

But as many local authorities don’t keep any record of complaints from staff about bullying, the union is worried that they don’t take the problem seriously enough.

Dignity in the Workplace

A spokesman for Unison said: “The figures here don’t show just how many people are affected by bullying in the workplace because of two reasons.

“One is that people don’t feel that they can come forward, and the other is that local authorities don’t take the matter seriously enough.”

He went on to say that victims often feel that they are the only people who are being targeted and so don’t say anything to their employer.

The trade union wants the government to change the current Dignity in the Workplace bill to include an anti-bullying policy which would be enforced by employers.

“Not alone”

Although many of the local authorities have one in place, it is not a legal requirement and Unison wants this to change.

The spokesman said: “The big problem with bullying in the workplace is that workers don’t actually report it.

“People think they are alone in being bullied but quite often they are not alone, there are other people suffering the same problems in the same workplace. Some people are worried that they will be further victimised if they report it.

“There needs to be better monitoring of the problems in the workplace so that we can get a real picture of what’s happening.”

“Drip feed of bullying behaviour”

In the last three financial years, 392 council workers complained of being bullied at work, and just 57 workers were disciplined for bullying in the same time frame.

The figures have stayed at a similar level each year.

Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said: “Many people do not realise that a drip feed of bullying behaviour can be as devastating as a major incident.

“Serious mental and physical illness is a common result for those being bullied and this can have a damaging effect on these workers for the rest of their lives.”

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