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  • Finn Brennan ASLEF District Organiser.

Workplace violence on TfL. We want action, not words.

Yesterday, senior Union reps from across TfL met with the Underground’s Managing Director, TfL’s Director of Compliance and Policing and the British Transport Police (BTP) to discuss TfL’s strategy to reduce workplace violence.

In the last week there have been two horrifyingly violent incidents on the London Underground. At West Ham station, staff were attacked by a group who followed then into the supposed “place of safety” and left them beaten and bruised. And at Hillingdon a young man boarding a train was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack.

It would be nice to be able to say that these are isolated incidents, but the truth is that staff on London’s transport system, from Upminister to Croydon, feel at risk of violence every day of their working life.

Of course, the risks aren’t new. 43 years ago, a train driver was shot dead at West Ham by a terrorist whose bomb had exploded on his train. And tube staff faced the horrors of the July 2005 bombings, the Parsons Green attack and many more as well as the daily abuse that should never be, but often is, regarded as “part of the job”.

But there is no doubt that things are getting worse. The BTP recorded 1,059 offences involving a knife or bladed article in 2018, up from 338 in 2015. Instead of being given the resources to deal with this, the BTP are faced with £30 million of “efficiency savings” by 2021. Nationally there are around 21,000 fewer police officers than in 2010.

Spending on youth services in England has been reduced by 69 per cent in a decade and will reach its lowest point in a generation next year. Average spend on youth services per local authority dropped from £7.79m in 2010 to just £2.45m next year.

While the people responsible for these cuts, George Osborne now Editor of the Evening Standard and his Bullingdon Club mates Cameron and Johnson carry on with their gilded lifestyles, it is front line staff, in the NHS, the police force and across the public sector that are left to deal with the results. And on the Underground and across the TfL network, there are far fewer staff to do so.

That has real consequences; if you are working on a barrier or tipping out a train, you feel isolated and vulnerable. That’s especially true at night and on late turns, but the risks are real at any time.

Increased BTP patrols after major incidents are welcome, but there aren’t any more officers. Just the same tired people working overtime shifts or moved from other areas.

Senior management at TfL tell us they fully share our concerns and want to do everything possible to reduce the risk of violence and intimidation against staff. Despite the impact of the Governments cuts and of the fares freeze, one practical step they can take is to ensure there are adequate staff at every station to deal with incidents and support drivers, who by definition are lone working. So, while it is good to hear the sentiments expressed by senior figures at TfL, I’m sure you will excuse me for wanting real action instead of words.

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