Tuesday, March 5, 2024

‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign launched for Auckland council staff

Auckland City Council has launched a ‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign designed to remind Aucklanders that council staff are just like them and deserve respect.

Council Chief Executive Jim Stabback said employees were frequently subjected to unacceptable behaviour, directed towards them by customers and members of the public.

“Instances of harm, verbal and physical abuse, and anti-social behaviour towards our people are causing us increasing concern. This particularly affects those on the ‘frontline’ or in roles with regular contact with customers,” he said.

He said examples of unacceptable behaviour ranged from online abuse, trolling and death threats, to spitting on people and physically intimidating them, to extreme verbal abuse and physical attacks.

“Our people perform a variety of vital functions for the communities they serve, yet they are subject to aggressive and threatening behaviour on a regular basis.”

“Unsafe situations and unacceptable conduct are occurring in all areas of our work – down the phone, online, and in-person. Abuse is directed towards our building inspectors, lifeguards, animal management officers, rangers, librarians and customer services staff.

“We are calling out this behaviour and reminding people that the council employees they deal with when they pay their rates, collect their dog from a shelter, use a pool or library, or get a visit from a compliance officer, are Aucklanders just like them.

“Our people are mums and dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents; they’re members of community groups, sports teams and churches; volunteers, neighbours and part of the community they live in – and they don’t deserve to be treated with aggression, violence and disrespect,” said Mr Stabback.

He said Council continued to put more mechanisms in place for its people to escalate incidents, manage unsafe situations and report bad behaviour, and issues a warning to customers that persist.

“If you get turned away from one of our sites; if a situation you are involved in gets escalated to a more senior staff member or if one of our staff asks for help in dealing with you, they do that with my full support,” he said.

Methods of managing unacceptable behaviour include meeting to resolve the situation or creating a managed customer relationship, or stronger approaches like court action, trespass or working with Police on enforcement options. 

“In developing ‘No excuse for abuse’ we have sought input from behaviour change experts and tested our approach with both our Hauora (Wellbeing) Challenger Group (that was developed out of the review) and a focus group of front-facing council staff from across the organisation,” Mr Stabback said.

“Their insights have been extremely valuable and our approach has been well supported. The campaign, accompanied by enhanced support mechanisms for our staff, demonstrates to our people that they do not have to tolerate violent or antisocial behaviour.

“It aims to create a more respectful relationship between Auckland Council employees and the public they serve.”

Council will evaluate the success of the first phase of the ‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign and expect to develop it into an ongoing component of the council’s employee wellbeing programme.

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