Keeping members safe at work

One of the most important responsibilities of any employer is to ensure employees have a safe workplace.

Regrettably, this is a perennial problem in the Northern Territory, with physical and verbal attacks against members by students, parents and members of the public a regular occurrence.

A report published in 2016 detailed more than 800 assaults on school staff in the past three years.

In recent times this threat has extended in some cases to remote teachers being threatened in their homes.

The AEU considers this unacceptable and has demanded the Department of Education do more to protect employees. We are concerned that in some instances there is official acceptance of violence against school staff and too little done to try to protect our members from violence and threats.

Unless this problem is addressed head on, it will contribute to higher staff turnover and burnout, workers compensation claims and poorer learning outcomes for students.

All employees have numerous protections against occupational violence, guaranteed by work health and safety (WHS) legislation. It is important you use these legal protections for your own wellbeing.

The union’s Branch Executive has decided to make promoting safety and wellbeing in the workplace a central component of our work this year. We’ve already taken a number of steps in this area:

  • The AEU’s senior officers have tabled our concerns with the Education Minister and the Chief Executive and said we wish to work collaboratively to find solutions to the problem of occupational violence, or at least mitigate its worst effects.
  • Our office has produced this fact sheet which provides advice to members on what to do in response to workplace violence.
  • In two instances we have served Notices of Entry authorising us to see schools’ emergency management plans and other evidence that these workplaces are complying with work health and safety laws.
  • Delivered a seminar on occupational violence and WHS to members at the Alice Springs Regional Council. This presentation will in turn be delivered to other regional councils and sub-branches.
  • Set up a register in the union office to record all incidents of violence against our members.

What you can do about occupational violence

  • Download, read and distribute the attached fact sheet.
  • Ensure you lodge an incident report about any violent incidents against yourself or other staff in your workplace, and notify the union office.
  • Elect someone in your workplace to carry out training to become a Health and Safety Representative – this is training that the employer must provide and pay for if requested.