The Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (EET) announced today that they will recommend to the Parliament that the general principles of the Protection of Workers Bill are not agreed to. This was a majority decision led by SNP, Tory and Liberal-Democrat MSPs with Labour MSPs supporting the Bill.
While the committee agreed with the Bill that ensuring protection of workers providing a service to the public is essential, and that something should be done now to tackle the problem of assault on workers and deter violence, most MSPs said this can be done without additional legislation.
My initial media response was that nearly 30,000 public service workers subjected to recorded violent incidents last year will today feel badly let down by the majority of MSPs on the committee who reached this decision. They will be joined by many thousands of other workers subjected to violence in the workplace who need Parliament to take action to protect them. UNISON has always accepted that legislation is only part of the solution. But to argue that the current criminal law is adequate, when the prosecution authorities don’t even keep statistics, is a less than adequate response.
We welcome the recommendations urging the prosecution authorities to take this issue more seriously, introduce new guidelines and to collect proper data. However, this has been identified as an issue over many years and little has happened. Meanwhile every year more workers are assaulted.
We will obviously have to work harder to persuade MSP’s to reject this recommendation and approve the general principles of the Bill when it is debated in the chamber early next year.