As key workers across all industries report a rising rates of abuse
After a year in which essential services and the key workers who provided them were celebrated, over half of public-facing staff have reported a rise in abuse. Veolia is taking a stand after reports from frontline staff more than doubled across the UK, with a 118% increase compared to the same period last year. This picture is reflected in Haringey where post pandemic frustration, the return of the night time economy and increased road use is also leading to more frequent reports.
In response Veolia has launched StreetKind, with the backing of Haringey Council. This is a new campaign thanking residents who recognise the hard work of their teams and taking stronger action against those who abuse or endanger their staff. Whilst the majority of people are respectful and kind to frontline staff, a rise in the most serious cases of physical and verbal abuse has led to a new commitment from the company to pursue more criminal prosecutions.
The campaign builds on previous Veolia initiatives focusing on building a safe workplace and includes a comprehensive training programme to support staff to diffuse situations, handle instances effectively and how and when to involve the police. Frustration at being stuck behind a collection vehicle or a bin containing incorrect items not being collected are not reasons to abuse key workers and the company is reaffirming its support to staff who are victims of abuse.
Beth Whittaker, Chief Human Resources Officer, Veolia UK & Ireland said:
“I talk to our people on a regular basis and they are passionate about their work and their teams, but hearing their stories of abuse, especially in the last six months, has been increasingly distressing. No one should be abused simply for doing their job and we’re determined to combat this unacceptable trend.
“As well as appealing to the public to show their appreciation for our teams, we are also focusing on training and support for our employees to respond to incidents. We will take the most serious action for the most serious attacks, including criminal prosecutions, in order to build a safer workplace environment for our colleagues.”
Councillor Seema Chandwani, Cabinet Member for Welfare, Customer Services and Public
“Our Waste Collection and Street Cleansing crews do a fantastic job across Haringey, and their hard work throughout the pandemic to ensure a full service was delivered was appreciated by all. It saddens and appals me to hear that, despite continuing to champion on through the multiplevchallenges they have faced, they are being subjected to abuse for simply doing their job.
“The Veolia StreetKind campaign has my full support as well as the council’s. These frontline staff members deserve respect from us all, and I ask that Haringey residents and businesses show our teams kindness, patience, and express any concerns through the proper channels rather than directing frustration and anger at the crews through abuse.”
StreetKind will thank the majority of the public for respecting staff and ask them to show their appreciation now and again with a smile or a wave. It also aims to raise public understanding about the abuse suffered by key workers since the pandemic, stabilise incident reporting to ensure the problem is accurately represented and increase prosecutions for the worst offenders.
The initiative has been launched in Haringey where the focus will be on collection rounds, street cleansing teams and calls into the Contact Centre, where incidents are most likely to occur. Some of the collection vehicles and Street Sweepers’ barrows now display StreetKind messages and all staff are being issued with special StreetKind hi-visibility vests.
As part of the campaign launch, a Veolia Haringey driver, Laszlo Major, was interviewed by both Sky News and iNews speaking about his recent frightening experience of being abused by a member of public.
If you witness a member of the Veolia Haringey team getting physically or verbally abused please report it to the Veolia Contact Centre at [email protected] or 020 8885 7700.