Tweed Shire Council has taken the extraordinary step of calling on the public to be nicer to their officers and subcontractors after a rash of aggressive incidents.
General manager Troy Green, who is urging people to show some ‘basic respect’ to staff says that over the past three years, ‘there has been a marked increase in incidents of verbal and physical aggression and what were once viewed as isolated events have become a common occurrence for some council workers.’
He added that most staff involved in verbal aggression don’t report incidents because ‘it is not viewed as something that can be controlled.’
Mr Green acknowledges, however, that the incidents are caused by a minority in the community and that ‘generally council staff have positive experiences with the public.’
‘It’s very unfortunate that the positive relationships our staff are building are being overshadowed by incidents of aggression,’ he said.
‘Council staff are not “fair game” for abuse or aggression.
‘Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from aggressive behaviour.
‘Recently a number of incidents have resulted in physical altercations or near misses and we are concerned for the welfare of council staff.’
Mr Green said a recent case that involved a contracted traffic controller on a regional work site has been referred to police.
Council workers at Kennedy Drive have also experienced ‘severe threats and abuse,’ he said.
Tweed council has also received reports of drivers ignoring the directions of traffic controllers and potentially risking the safety of workers and other road users.
‘Our staff members have a job to do, often in difficult conditions, and we do not tolerate aggression towards them at any time – verbal or physical,’ Mr Green said.
‘Council understands and appreciates that roadwork delays can be frustrating, but that does not give motorists the right to abuse someone who is on a work site doing their job and trying to keep people safe.
‘Our staff are part of the Tweed community, whether they’re working the weighbridge, council rangers, or our front-counter staff. In the vast majority of cases they have positive experiences with the public; it’s those occasions where people think council staff are “fair game” that have to stop.
‘We have systems in place to report incidents of aggression and we will not hesitate to refer matters to the police.
‘I would like to thank the majority of motorists for their patience and consideration at sites of important council infrastructure work, such as Kennedy Drive and Kingscliff Bridge.’