Violence and harassment at workplaces affects women more often than men

Violence and harassment at workplaces are not uncommon. Offences of this nature are more often directed at women than men, according to recent surveys.

Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland, and STTK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals, both published at the end of November surveys on violence at workplaces.

The surveys in question provide similar results: violence or the threat of violence is a feature of working life. The Akava survey finds that 23 per cent of Akava members have faced violence or the threat of violence in their work in the last three years.

These threats were more common for women: 26 per cent versus 19 per cent for men. For Akava members it is common that violence or the threat of violence comes from a customer (8 per cent of those who replied) or a pupil (7 per cent). The Trade Union of Education in Finland, OAJ, is a member of Akava.

In 30 per cent of cases, Akava members’ superiors or employers did not intervene in cases involving violence or threats though they knew about it. In 17 per cent of cases, they did not even know about it.

When employers actually did something, in 23 per cent of cases it had no effect. In 11 per cent of cases violence or threat of violence did stop due to the employer’s action.

The Akava survey is based on a questionnaire replied to by a statistically representative sampling of their members.

The STTK survey is based on a statistically representative sampling of the whole population. During the last three years, there has been physical violence at my workplace, said 10 per cent. 14 per cent have witnessed the threat of physical violence.

Again, the violence is clearly gender based. 19 per cent of women had experienced physical violence at their workplaces, but only 9 per cent of men.

The situation is worst in the social and health services. In this branch, 23 per cent say there has been physical violence by customers at their workplaces and threats at 36 per cent of workplaces.

The survey commissioned last spring by Tehy, The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland, gives a more detailed picture in the area of social and health care. Tehy is a member of STTK.

Of those Tehy members who replied, 69 per cent said they had personally met with violence or threats during their career. Of those under 35 years of age, the figure was 84 per cent.

Three out of four said they have been hit at work, one out of four had faced a death threat. 44 per cent had objects thrown at them and 32 per cent had been shoved. Sexual harassment is also common, 30 per cent of had encountered this during their professional life.

Tehy survey is based of those 20 per cent of their members who responded.

Akava, STTK and Tehy demand action to guarantee a safe working environment for all. This requires better reporting on violence, changes in the legislation to guarantee that employers do their part and support for those who have been targets of either mental or physical violence.

Heikki Jokinen

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