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Doctors, retail workers facing more threats, aggression

Over a third of doctors have been intimidated or threatened at least once, according to research by the doctors’ federation KNMG. Over one in ten has received death threats. Since the coronavirus pandemic, shop staff also more often have to deal with verbal abuse and aggression, according to trade unions FNV and CNV.

The KNMG conducted research among 562 doctors. Threats against them range from verbal and physical assault and online threats to harassment or threats to the doctors’ families. Most threats come from patients or their loved ones, but doctors are also confronted with aggression from citizens or action groups outside the consulting room. The aggression causes stress, the KNMG said. Some doctors feel less safe at work.

According to the KNMG, threats form a “real risk of absenteeism and even termination of the medical profession.” Federation chairman Rene Heman: “Given the major staff shortages in the healthcare sector, we must retain all doctors for the profession. It is in all of our interests. This is an additional reason to take action against aggression, to prevent an outflow.”

Only 6 percent of doctors report aggression to the police. Doctors don’t report incidents because they feel threats are part of their profession (23 percent) or think it’s pointless because nothing will happen with the report (40 percent). Some did not believe the threat was severe enough to act on it (41 percent).

Doctors are not the only ones facing more threats and aggression. Shop staff are also dealing with more verbal abuse from customers, according to the trade unions FNV and CNV. During the coronavirus pandemic, customers sometimes took their frustration about the mandatory face masks and social distancing out on store employees. Since then, the situation has not improved much due to the strong price rises and deteriorating economy, the unions said.

“People are under more pressure, and you can notice that. The general level of bastard has increased. There was a huge peak during the coronavirus, and it has not fallen back to normal,” said Jacqueline Twerda of CNV. “For example, if a customer comes for an offer in the brochure and it is sold out in-store. That customer then completely loses it on a store employee. People more often have a short fuse than before corona.”

Linda Vermeulen of FNV also noticed that staff are more often confronted with intimidating behavior, especially now that the holidays are approaching. “We hear that stores are getting busier due to all the offers and advertisements. Retail chains are very busy keeping occupancy low. So a lot of work will be on experienced employees’ shoulders in particular. Employees report that customers do not understand if they are not helped immediately. People regularly react impatiently and sometimes even with a short fuse.”

According to the two union directors, staff shortages are an important cause. “Since the coronavirus, employees are on the work floor with fewer colleagues. Employers can tackle these problems by doing their best to retain extra staff. That is also better for the customer,” said Vermeulen.

More staff makes it easier for employees to deal with complaints, Twerda added. She also said that employees have built up a degree of habituation to rude customers and are increasingly putting up with anti-social behavior without complaining to their employer.

The CBL, the umbrella organization for supermarkets, said that “aggression against shop staff is, unfortunately, something of all times” and that employees are prepared for it as much as possible. The CBL said it noticed more aggression against staff during the pandemic due to the restrictive measures. The organization has not yet received any signals that this aggression has recently increased due to the higher prices.

Retail sector organization INretail said more aggression was definitely noticeable during the corona times. According to a spokesperson, there was a lot of polarization in society at the time, which was reflected in the shops. INretail stressed that the vast majority of shoppers behave decently and only a small minority harasses staff.

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