PEI UPSE President speaks to Health PEI leadership on workplace violence

"There must be a shift from a culture of reacting to violence in the workplace, to a culture of violence prevention." — Karen Jackson, PEI UPSE President

Charlottetown (22 Nov. 2017) — Karen Jackson, President of the PEI Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE/NUPGE), in a speech at the Health PEI Leaders Community Meeting provided insight to the increase in frequency and severity of workplace violence.

Jackson explained that "PEIUPSE/NUPGE members play an integral role in providing care to patients, and because of their level of interaction with them they are the primary victims of this violence. To make matters worse, many of our members feel unsupported by their management teams. In some cases members have stopped filing incident reports because they have seen a lack of response to others members who have done due diligence. The fact that violence is the number 2 reason for incident reports speaks volumes."

Violence at work is increasing, solutions needed now

Jackson stressed that "it is not part of your job to go to your workplace knowing full well that if you are assigned to a certain patient or resident that there is a high likelihood you are going to be assaulted. It not only affects our members physically, but having to deal with this, feeling unsupported by your employer, is affecting our members psychologically." Jackson said, "I completely understand that workplace violence is a complex issue and does not have an easy solution. However, there is a clear obligation for the employer to provide a safe workplace to protect workers from violence and abuse, and to have supports in place to deal with these issues."

Jackson believes "there must be a shift from a culture reacting to violence in the workplace, to a culture of violence prevention." She said that "prevention protects workers, improves patient care, and makes the care environment a more positive place. Education is also important. We need to help educate the public on what's acceptable when they go into a health care institution. All members are asking for is to be heard and to be respected for the role they play every day as frontline caregivers, and for the employers to be supportive when workers are faced with these issues."

Jackson stated that she would like to be part of the solution to ensure her members have a safe workplace free from violence and abuse. She pointed to staffing ratios and security as key concerns that could be part of the solution. 

Jackson concluded by saying, "We have discussed these issues long enough and now is the time to take action before someone is seriously injured or worse."

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE