Tube station closures sparking abuse against staff, says RMT

Workers on London Underground are facing increasing levels of verbal abuse and threats of violence from passengers after telling them that Tube stations are closed, a union is warning.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said passengers are taking out their frustration on staff, leaving some having to take stress-related sick leave.

The union claimed that Tube stations regularly have to close because of staff shortages caused by spending cuts.

There have been around 130 Tube station closures since the start of April, said the RMT.

One Tube worker said: “Staff are vulnerable when they have to inform the public a station is closed. I have been threatened with violence and verbally abused.

“There are colleagues who are suffering from poor mental health as a result of their treatment.

“And some of them are having to take long periods of sick leave which only adds to the already dire staffing situation.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The cuts to Tube staff are creating chronic shortages across the network leading to unprecedented station closures.

“Frustration among the travelling public has boiled over in some cases to nasty threats of violence and verbal abuse of our members, something RMT will not tolerate.

“If things do not improve, our members run the real risk of being seriously physically assaulted at work.

“The responsibility for the staff shortages lies with government budget cuts to Transport for London and the London Mayor who is refusing to stand up to ministers suffocating the capital’s transport finances.”

Glynn Barton, TfL’s chief operating officer, said: “There is never an excuse for threats or violence towards our staff, who have the right to do their job without fear or intimidation.

“The safety of our staff, and of our customers, will always be our top priority and we take this behaviour extremely seriously.

“We are aware of the disruption that station closures can cause and only close them as a last resort, after exhausting all other possible options.

“However, on some occasions it is unavoidable as certain stations cannot safely remain open in the rare instances when we have temporary staff shortages.

“We try to minimise disruption caused by station closures, many of which are only closed for a very short time, by prioritising stations with greater connectivity when these shortages occur.

“Under the current proposals the Underground will remain well staffed with 4,500 staff available across the network, to assist customers.

“These proposals have been carefully considered to reduce the risk of Underground stations closing, while ensuring that TfL will be able to meet customer needs, protect jobs and continue to run a safe and reliable service.”