Reports of violence and abuse against Auckland Council staff have quadrupled since the introduction of Covid vaccine mandates, according to a health and safety wellbeing report presented to Council’s Governing Body on February 24.
Health and safety manager Elaine Toal said in November last year, there were 36 reports of workplace violence compared to 152 in December when the mandates were introduced. In January, violence had a slight decrease with 140 reports from staff.
Face-mask requirements and vaccine passports were linked to the majority of the reports.
In response, Council has developed the Speak Up and No Excuse for Abuse programmes.
Toal says the No Excuse for Abuse programme is designed to remind Aucklanders that council staff are just like them and deserve respect, while Speak Up is a reporting tool for staff.
Cr Fa’anana Efeso Collins emphasised the importance of using an external service provider for the Speak Up programme.
“What’s really important is that it provides a level of confidentiality. Staff need to have the confidence that there’s a level of anonymity,” Collins said.
Cr Richard Hills was concerned that Auckland could see a rise in violence.
“By the looks of Wellington, these incidents could increase,” Hills said.
While 83 percent of Council staff support vaccine mandates, Hills said it would not be easy telling someone they could not come into a facility.
Hills said even staff not at Council facilities were experiencing abuse. He said enforcement officers who attended freedom camping complaints were spat at.
“Our staff are being abused and I want to see a reduction in violence,” he said.
Hills asked how support was being wrapped around staff at this time.
Toal said when an incident occurred, staff were supported through a follow-up process.
“Those events were concentrated across libraries. There was a focus on providing de-escalation training for library staff,” Toal said.
Cr Linda Cooper said she was concerned by the limited number of methods Council has to address the violence.
“Staff are experiencing a level of aggression and we’re asking the public to be nice,” Cooper said.
She clarified it was not Council’s fault, but was concerned for the effect it would have on staffing.
General manager risk and assurance Mark Maloney said staffing levels had remained consistent despite the increases in violence.
The Speak Up programme starts this month.