GMB union concern for violence in our society

Paul Holleran, GMB union

Health & Safety and Education Officer

26 August 2022

Violence has raised its ugly head this week in our city and the impact has led to an outpouring of grief and questions.

Questions like - why did this happen? How did we get to a situation where a nine year old child is shot dead as a result of a criminal conflict? What happened that one of our own community activists gets fatally stabbed trying to intervene and stop a knife fight? Who shot dead a young woman in her back garden in an apparently mistaken identity attack?

Are these things happening because of crime growing out of control and because of cutbacks in the justice system and with fewer cops on the beat? Maybe, but we need answers. Maybe we need to look a bit wider afield too, to our society and the messages that are sent out by our politicians and bosses.

At both ends of the violence spectrum, we have the potential next Prime Minister Liz Truss being clapped by a live audience when she says she would have no hesitation in using nuclear weapons if a conflict required such drastic action. The ultimate act of violence, mass destruction, and possible word ending actions coming out of the mouth of someone who should be responsible for looking after the well-being of our population.

Back home again this week I am delivering training to new GMB reps in our offices in Columbus Quay, in Liverpool, and people are shocked and angry at the above-mentioned incidents. At the same time, we are looking at problems they face as reps and what skills and attitudes they need to tackle problems at work. How to represent people who are being bullied, many of whom are vulnerable including having disabilities.

Bullying is violence and can have devastating effects on individuals, including suicide in some cases. It is a cancer in the workplace and is unacceptable. From the course, the reps will take away our posters and tactical awareness of how we as a union take a Zero Tolerance approach to varying types of violence whether they be attacks on our members servicing the public or bosses enabling bullying and harassment at work.

During our course, we have been discussing how companies like ASDA, Cadent, British Gas, Mersey Care, GEO Amey, NWAS, and others take corporate decisions to cut staffing levels, move to lone working which can impact on members mental and physical health. How bullying is encouraged in some places from the top with bosses putting pressure on ill-trained managers to make unreasonable demands on their staff.

There is a sliding scale of violence in our society, from verbal abuse to using a knife or gun or preparing to drop a thermonuclear bomb on a city somewhere not too far away. As a society, we have to ask if is this the way we want to live. Are we prepared to accept politicians who believe mass destruction and mutually assured destruction is the way to go; do we accept weapons in our everyday lives across our community; or do we challenge bullying and all aspects of unacceptable behaviour and call it out. We are many and they are few but it needs to stop and be stopped and the sooner we start arguing for Zero Tolerance at all levels of our lives the better and safer for all of us.

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