30 November 2021
RMT Press Office:
Face masks become compulsory once again on transport services in England.
TRANSPORT UNION RMT said that it's advising all members to ensure that they protect their own personal safety and the safety of their colleagues as a priority as masks become compulsory on transport services in England.
The union has warned that the Government have made no arrangements to resource the enforcement of their policy switch leaving staff in the front line seriously exposed.
Violence and abuse is already endemic on transport services. A recent RMT survey revealed that 76% of staff in public facing roles on London’s Underground and TfL rail networks have been subjected to violence at work since the pandemic began with half of these reporting that it has happened multiple times.
The results of the survey showed that more than half of staff reported being threatened with physical violence, 28% reported being racially harassed, 14% reported being spat at or targeted with bodily fluids and 7% had been sexually assaulted.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said;
“Life on the front line of Britain's transport services has got harder and more dangerous for the keyworkers who have kept the country moving during the Covid crisis. There is now a real risk that an already dangerous situation at the sharp end could get far worse from this morning.
"RMT is advising members to make sure that they take action to protect their personal safety at all times. We are not having a situation where train, bus and tube staff become punchbags for angry and violent passengers because of the government's botched policy shifts.
"We support the wearing of masks but there are major issues about enforcement and we will not leave our members exposed on the front line at huge personal risk.
"The Government must make the resources available to properly police this reintroduction of compulsory face coverings on our transport services."
Notes to editors
1. The RMT’s survey results and testimony from the front line workers can be read in more detail here: https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/publications/tfl-and-violence-at-work-during-covid-19
2. These are just a few of the comments left in the survey:
“I’ve been ask to go back to my country, I was asked to speak English, also one lady came to me twice months apart and wished the Covid19 kills me. Just this week she came back because she doesn't want to pay for her journey, she said to me she wished I would drop dead before my retirement.”
“I was physically assaulted and injured and racially abuse myself on the station in the early hours on a February morning 2021.
“Been sworn at on several occasions. In one incident, I was threatened with stabbing.”
“They tried to pull my face mask off”.
“Spitting, threats to spit. General aggression from fare evaders who know there is very little to no revenue protection.
“Being sworn at every day and confronted with violence and aggression has become part of the job. We put up with it so we don’t escalate it. But it is 10 times worse since Covid. The main trigger is people not socially distancing or not wearing masks. The messages are vague and cause conflict amongst customers who expect us to intervene.”
“I was physically assaulted on a train whilst preventing someone fly-posting anti vaccination posters”.
“Lack of enforcement plus the mixed messaging from government made things worse.”
“People think they can do whatever they want and all restrictions are finished.”
“You get slated because the company say one thing and everyone does another and you have people having a go because you’re not telling people to wear masks”
“It’s probably because the public in general are going through a tough time themselves but that’s no excuse for their behaviour towards people that are only trying to help them.”