London Underground staff are facing a surge in verbal abuse and threats of violence from passengers after telling them that Tube stations are closed, a union has warned. 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. It blamed regular station closures on staff shortages caused by spending cuts as central government reduces funding for Transport for London (TfL).
"Instead of standing up to ministers, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is cutting 600 staff and implementing a new rostering system that does not work," the RMT said. There have been around 130 Tube station closures since the start of April, according to the union.
"It is a legal requirement for a certain number of staff to be present at a tube station in order to keep it open," the union said. "But due to shortages, RMT members are being transferred to short-staffed stations to keep some open while others are closed."
The Central line in particular has had acute problems, with Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Queensway and Holland Park having closed over 50 times since mid-April.
Commuters left frustrated by such disruption are said to be taking it out on staff. 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.”
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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.”