OPSEU Reports On Workplace Violence and Verbal Abuse Targeting Government Employees


Ontario Government Employee Union Attacks Workplace Violence and Verbal Abuse That Targets Government Workers

While unions have an obligation to support and aid their members, rather than consider all aspects of any problem, they can be a good source of information about issues in the workplace.

In a report entitled: Violence and Harassment
at Work: Violence against workers is the direct consequence
of an unsafe workplace.
the Ontario Public Sector Empoyees Union maps out the terrain of abuse levelled at government employees, and explains its position on what the government should be doing to counteract growing numbers of attacks on government workers.

Whether you are an OPSEU member, or work in government, this is a worthwhile read. You may not agree with all of the suggestions or conclusions, but it will raise your awareness of the workplace violence issues in government.

Here are a few excerpts:

Scary Examples of Government Employees Targeted For Abuse

Violence at work is a reality in the working lives of many OPSEU members. Whether it’s community housing workers who have to tell people that the waiting list to get housing is ten years long after they have waited an hour in a busy, crowded waiting room, or a hospital
professional interacting with patients in hectic, stressful situations, workplace violence is an issue every day that puts workers’ very lives at risk.

Krista Sepp, a young employee at a group home in Midland for young offenders, was stabbed to death while working the night shift alone on her first week on the job. Margaret McGorman, a psychiatric nurse at Whitby Psychiatric Hospital, was stabbed repeatedly by a psychiatric patient wielding a pair of scissors. She survived but developed post traumatic stress

Pat Chapados, a residential counsellor at a facility for the developmentally handicapped, was pregnant with her first child when she was brutally attacked by a client. The client had repeatedly threatened to kill her unborn baby.
Bob Rusk, a correctional officer at the Brookside Youth Centre, was brutally beaten with an iron bar by three young offenders who were trying to escape. Bob was working alone on the night shift.

Jean Crawford, a support staff worker at Fanshawe College, has felt fear when students have lashed out in anger because loan money isn’t available when they expect it. She and her co‑workers have planned escape routes from their workplace in the event angry words become angry actions.

Every day, in workplaces across Ontario, workers are physically assaulted, threatened, sexually or racially harassed and verbally abused.

What Is Harrassment In The Workplace?

The report explains harrassment as follows -- an approach which highlights verbal abuse as harrassment.

The Act defines workplace harassment as:
Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Forms of harassment include:
Verbal abuse: Unwanted comment that offends, humiliates or engenders anxiety or fear. Bullying: Repeated, mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, umiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work.
Sexual harassment: Any unwanted verbal or physical sexual attention including patting or touching, sexual invitation, leering, displaying pornography, stalking and rape.
Racial/religious harassment: Any unwanted comment referring to the worker’s religious affiliation or racial background that attempts to humiliate or demean a worker

Deleterious Effects of Harrassment

What are the health effects of harassment?
Workers who are subject to constant verbal abuse or harassment or who work with constant fear of assault are chronically stressed.
They are at high risk for digestive disorders and heart disease. A daily dose of emotional stress can lead to serious physical and psychological problems. Common symptoms include chronic fatigue, fear and anxiety, depression and substance abuse, and possibly even symptoms similar to those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder

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