Greater Anglia Conductors: Violent Passengers On-Board Trains

Our Ref: HSR/1/1
Head Office Circular: NP/271/19
3rd December 2019
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


A resolution has been submitted to the National Executive Committee from our Norwich Branch:

Over the past twelve months there has been many stories reported in the press about people carrying knifes and offensive weapons on board trains that has resulted in arrests. Also there has been number of incidents of aggression and violence experienced by Greater Anglia conductor members, making staff more fearful about potentially becoming involved in a violent incident whilst on duty.

This issue has already been raised with GA Conductor Managers, to which they have questioned whether it's an actual or a perceived rise in aggressive or violent incidents. They back up this line of thought with the reasoning that the number of assault reports hasn't changed.

Upon discussions between our conductor members both in the mess room and when taking over trains, many members have noticed a rise of incidents of anti-social behaviour, either verbal abuse or threatening behaviour used by passengers on a daily basis.

Due this rise in anti-social behaviour, staff are becoming used to something that would have been considered completely intolerable in the past, which our members would expect the employer to have dealt with. There are posters displayed at stations and on-board trains saying that abusive behaviour won't be tolerated, where as in reality our guard members are finding that this is not the case.

When asked whether our conductor members report such incidents of abuse or violence by passengers the majority state they don't like to do so. One of the main reasons is that many Guards feel that management won't do anything and that the reporting process is very time consuming. Our members also feel that parts of the report forms put too much emphasis on guards themselves, as if they are to blame, so feel that reporting a violent incident is pointless.

This leads to a vicious cycle where incidents are remaining unreported. The Conductor Managers, being unaware of what is really happening on board our trains, is also impacting on conductor morale. Many conductor members are becoming wary and apprehensive of potentially being involved in a violent incident including long serving conductors who give the appearance that nothing bothers them. It is recognised that without an accurate and timely reporting of incidents it is difficult for managers and the company to build a true picture of any trends of the types of assaults and incidents experienced. Therefore it is imperative that everything should be done to encourage conductors to submit reports without bias or recrimination so that an accurate and true picture of the levels of the anti-social behaviour we are currently experiencing can be gained.

In addition this branch feels that the Greater Anglia duty of care procedures for when such incidents have been reported has been very inconsistent and patchy. For example when an incident has been reported the conductor hasn't been met up on arrival or contacted. Also due to the method of logging these incidents our members feel that they sometimes go unnoticed by line managers, which in turn contributes to the conductors feeling that they aren't valued or being cared for after such incidents. Another concern, which has also been reported in the national press is that "County Lines" drug runners use trains from London into East Anglia. These types of passengers are on the increase and are known to potentially be carrying either a knife or offensive weapon for their protection. At the same time this is happening, Greater Anglia have cut the Land Sheriffs' budget which has led to a reduction of hours that they are available to be present on board our trains. This branch believes that we need the concerns of our Conductor members addressed around violence at work, and we want to see that Greater Anglia is being genuinely proactive in ensuring safety measures are implemented when staffs are working alone.

Therefore this branch calls for the RMT to engage in constructive discussions with Greater Anglia to ensure that:

• Reporting of incidents is proactively encouraged to gain a true and accurate understanding of trends in incidents.
• Duty of care procedures are robust, watertight and consistent for every conductor following an incident.
• Measures put in place are regularly reviewed to ensure that conductors are consistently supported and have resources to keep conductors safe whilst carrying out their duties.
• Review the reporting procedures and documentation for violence and abusive behaviour at work.

The last thing we want is where one of our members is involved in a violent incident where they are seriously injured, and only then afterwards Greater Anglia then perceive there is an actual problem that urgently requires addressing.

On considering this matter the National Executive Committee have noted the following report of their Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We instruct the General Secretary to:

1. Write to Greater Anglia requesting a meeting within the next 7 days.
2. If no adequate response is received members are to be advised of their right to refuse to work on the grounds of health and safety and be fully supported by this union.
3. Write to Greater Anglia and the BTP to set up a tripartite meeting to address this situation.
4. Instruct our Parliamentary Group to take up this matter.
5. Produce a press release.

Branches and Regional Councils to be informed.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions. Please make the contents of this Circular available to all appropriate members.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary