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31/07/2008 - Workers under attack in a sick society

More public workers are getting stab vests. The growing fear of knife crime in Britain is forcing hospital trusts and local authorities to supply body armour to frontline workers, including accident and emergency (A&E) staff, hospital porters, teachers, benefits officers and traffic wardens.

Stab vest supplier Body Armour Company says it had received about 10,000 orders for protective vests from local government, with front line NHS staff accounting for most of them. The firm said it had also received orders for body armour from teachers. Company spokesperson Peter Warren said: 'Councils are becoming aware of the need for armour and protecting their staff. We have had many private enquiries from teachers and the rate is going up. Headteachers are aware that teachers are at risk and knife crime is getting worse.' Schools were its biggest growth market, he said.

Clearly part of the reason for this growth is in response to the new corporate manslaughter law. Peter Warren of the Body Armour Company said: 'If a schoolteacher can sue for £300,000 for stress, what price a school that failed to protect its staff from knives?' He said an order had also been placed by a railway operator for 'ballistic body armour' to protect workers.

Looking at the wider picture, however, we should ask: "Is it right that workers need to don body armour before going to their job?". What does that say about the kind of society we are living in? Is it the kind of society we want? Solidarity as a Trade Union has a limited function. We are not a political Party. What I would say, however, is that workers need to adopt a zero tolerance attitude to violence directed at them. Solidarity will back them all the way. People need to respect those providing services to the community and labour in general. Employers must be challenged if they fail to back-up their staff or are soft on culprits.