RMT supports MP’s call to protect public-facing staff as union reveals nearly 60% of transport workers have been subjected to workplace violence since the pandemic began.
Nearly 60% of rail, bus and ferry workers have been subjected to verbal or physical attack since the start of the Coronavirus according to the results of a new survey released today by maritime and transport union RMT.
The survey of more than 5,000 transport workers showed that most transport workers believed that workplace violence has worsened during the pandemic and 73% said they believed the government’s lifting of Covid restrictions and mixed messaging around safety measures had further aggravated the situation.
More than half the respondents reported being threatened with physical violence while 1 in 10 had actually been physically assaulted. 88% had been verbally abused, 16% had been spat at or targeted with bodily fluids, 13% had been racially harassed and 6% sexually assaulted.
66% of people reporting attacks said they had been working alone at the time of the incident.
The union has released these results on the day that Olivia Blake MP submits a Bill which seeks to make verbal or physical abuse of a public-facing worker a specific offence. RMT is supporting the Bill and pointed to one of its survey findings which showed that 71% of respondents believed a major reason for rise in violence toward staff was the fact that no action was taken against perpetrators.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said,
“We have a massive problem on public transport. It’s clear that the stresses and strains of the pandemic, coupled with the government’s credibility-stretching ineptitude are creating a wave of violence against essential workers who have already put their lives on the line to keep our transport services working.
“RMT fully supports Olivia Blake’s bill because it will give our members greater confidence to protect themselves. But we also need the government and the industry to come out of their bunker of denial.
“The government's management of the pandemic is a shambles that has created new levels of passenger frustration and put our members in danger, while their disastrous fixation with cutting jobs and services to shore up profits will create more lone working, more vulnerable staff and more angry passengers.”
Notes to editors:
1. Olivia Blake MP will present her 10-Minute Rule Motion ‘That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for and in connection with offences relating to verbal and physical abuse of public-facing workers in the course of their employment’ at 12.45pm on 15 September.
2. The RMT’s survey results and testimony from the front-line workers can be read in more detail here:
3. These are just a few of the comments left in the survey:
• “A lot of passengers do not follow government guidelines and keep coming very close to me without wearing a mask. When you politely ask them to keep a distance they become aggressive. Even had a passenger spitting in my face because i asked him not to come close to me, a week later I tested positive for covid.”
• “I suffered 6 assaults in a short space of time include physical violence, threats of violence and abuse and was eventually signed off work with PTSD.”
• “I was spat on and assaulted with a fire extinguisher let off in my face.”
• “You get threats and abuse when your Company tells you to enforce Mask Wearing, then abuse from Passengers complaining that you not telling people to wear Masks.”
• “I was assaulted by a member of the public who had assaulted three other staff members in which the police had failed to investigate the previous matters seriously.”
• “People now get angry about other passengers not wearing masks, they don't want to sit next to people. People's tolerance levels seems to have gone down and we are now dealing with these complaints along with the usual.”
• “It's a daily occurence getting verbally assaulted at the moment mainly due to current company staffing levels. (Bus) Drivers are getting abuse left right and centre. Drivers are leaving in droves because management don't care about the amount of stress that we are under.”