Two new reports from UNISON Scotland launched in The Herald on Sunday 1st August are about supporting branches to tackle work-related mental health problems at source.
The report Don’t Just See Me, See All Of Us – makes the arguments for mental health to be dealt with as a collective workplace issue and sets out the relevant legislation and policies in Scotland.
The Mental Health Toolkit – provides practical tools and resources and tips from UNISON branches. It showcases examples of branches pushing back against the causes of workplace stress – such as heavy workloads and violence at work – by organising and taking collective action around these.
Trade union organisation and action in the workplace is the key ; using legal duties and standards of good practice to challenge poor practice and win the improved working conditions that will deliver physically and mentally healthy work and better public services.
Scott Donohue, Chair of UNISON Scotland’s Health and Safety Committee warned The Herald on Sunday that a tsunami of mental health problems was already affecting public sector workers as a result of the pandemic. He said that “It is essential that the Health and Safety Executive is properly resourced to ensure employers are taking the mental wellbeing of their staff seriously and abiding by the law.”
While the pandemic has raised awareness, for UNISON members mental ill-health was already an acute issue in workplaces after more than a decade of austerity. A major cause of the growth in mental health difficulties has been conditions of work and working practices in public services squeezed to the limit by budget cuts.
UNISON will not allow its members’ mental health to be compromised in the name of budget cuts. Working people should not be paying the price for austerity with their health. Neither should working people’s families be paying the price: stress at work comes home at the end of a shift and affects relationships.
The message is clear: telling workers that “It’s okay to not feel okay” is not acceptable when it is their work that is making them unwell. If the working environment and the organisation of work are contributing to mental ill-health, then these must be tackled at source by making sure that health and safety requirements are properly enforced.