A leading Angus councillor has backed the authority’s ‘enough is enough’ stance after it was forced to defend staff from a rising torrent of abuse.
In an unprecedented move, the council has revealed in a social media post the escalating level of incidents employees are being subjected to.
Verbal abuse over the phone and in person has increased and the scale of online attacks on those delivering services has also intensified.
It has become an increasing issue during the pandemic, with the scale of the problem heightened during this week’s atrocious weather.
Administration councillor Lois Speed said the rising tide of incidents was “demoralising and hurtful” for staff.
Arbroath East and Lunan Independent Ms Speed said: “Angus Council isn’t a faceless entity.
“It is a human workforce and everyone is trying really hard.
“Mistakes can be made and this can be frustrating.
However, verbal abuse, shouting at call handlers and posting aggressive comments on social media is not ok.
“It is completely unacceptable.”
She continued: “It is demoralising and hurtful and I have been saddened to learn of some of the staff’s experiences.
“Staff should be able to be to feel physically and mentally safe at work.”
A member of Cosla’s health and wellbeing executive group, Ms Speed said staff were grateful for support from the communities they work in.
“It has been heart-warming to see how many people do recognise and appreciate the council workforce,” she added.
“Let’s not forget: they are also our neighbours, friends and family and part of Angus’s biggest employer .
“We all need to play our part, respect each other, help those in greater need and be kind to overcome the many challenges that we are all faced with.
“I urge the public to get behind the council workforce – we all need them.”
Council Facebook message promoted significant response
In its Facebook post the authority said: “We appreciate most, if not all comments that we receive on our social media and via our call centre, as we respect the right for everyone to have an opinion.
“But some of them go beyond the pale and we regret to say that our staff are experiencing a high level of abuse – on our phones, in person, and yes, also here on social media.
We appreciate most, if not all comments that we receive on our social media and via our call centre, as we respect the…
“We understand these are incredibly difficult times for everyone, but please don’t take it out on our staff.
“They are friends, neighbours and fellow citizens, and are trying to help.”
The post continued: “Getting abused while at work doesn’t make life easy, it doesn’t help to get the job done and we won’t tolerate it.
“This is not a ‘normal’ winter.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic and a lockdown…this makes it far, far harder to deliver services as normal, but we are trying wherever possible to do just that and more.
“The current restrictions mean that we cannot easily transfer staff to different roles and teams, staff can’t share transport, they can’t take breaks (that they are legally required to take and are fully entitled to have) in canteens together, and they can’t just stand by on-site to see how situations change.
“Please don’t rush to judge.
“But PLEASE #bekind, and maybe accept, if not agree, that it is much more challenging than usual in current circumstances, as it is for many other people and organisations.
“Our people are just trying to get the job done to the very best of their abilities and we are proud of them.”
It followed up the initial post with another Facebook message saying it had been “overwhelmed” by the warm response from many residents across the county.