RMT RAISES SERIOUS CONCERNS WITH MINISTER OVER SPIKE IN RACIST ABUSE OF STAFF IN WAKE OF HEADLINES ABOUT TERROR CELL’S ON LONDON TRANSPORT
Tube union RMT has today written to the Minister of State for Security, Ben Wallace, after Government comments about the possibility of terrorists embedding themselves within London Transport were turned into front page headlines last week, leading to a spike of racist abuse and threats against staff on London Underground over the weekend.
In the letter, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, says:
“I am writing to you in respect of the article on the front page of the Evening Standard in the final edition on Friday 6th April.
Headlines as we know are important to any newspaper and a story like this was always going to be of particular interest in London. However I wanted to share with you that I have received a number of urgent calls from staff working over the weekend who have been racially abused and threatened by passengers. The inference from the passengers involved being that the staff are all part of a terrorist cell operating in London Transport.
The headlines do not reflect all the good work that takes place with the RMT through consultation on safety and security matters. RMT Regional organiser for London Transport John Leach was at a meeting with Director of Health and Safety and Transport for London Head of Security last Friday and none of this was mentioned. The headline was the first that RMT had heard of it. John also spoke to London Underground Managing Director, Mark Wild on Sunday and he told John that the whole subject as a news story came out the blue and the Standard did not use London Underground’s quote backing their staff.
I appreciate that you, the police and the security services have a role to play in helping to protect those using the Tube, but the staff are right in the front line, every day ensuring that passengers are safe and secure.
With an employer the size of Transport for London there may well be people who are under investigation. I would urge caution about the use of lurid headlines though and highlighted figures that state 3000 people are under active scrutiny could lead people to believe they are all in London transport. Such an impression can only fuel racism and the possibility of violence against staff which is not something any of us want to see.
The Standard also referenced Transport for London autistic staff by headlining that extremists ‘are grooming autistic people for terror’. This is appalling scapegoating of a vulnerable group of employees who now also feel singled out, and has no bearing in fact.
Staff do not need to be the focus of smears, abuse or threats given the crucial jobs they have to perform on the transport network in London keeping people safe.
I hope you will therefore join with me to support responsible reporting of such sensitive matters which is in the best interests of staff and passengers alike.”
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, said:
“RMT has always made it clear that safety and security on the transport network is an over-riding priority of this trade union and our officials are in constant contact with tube managers in pursuant of that objective.
“Today we have written to the minister asking for him to support the union call for responsible reporting of these matters in light of the spike of racist abuse and threats that were targeted at front line tube staff over the weekend off the back of lurid, front-page headlines on Friday.
“The union understands that the first senior London Underground managers knew of this story was when they were contacted by reporters and we hope that tube managers and the Mayor will support and protect staff facing threats and abuse as a result of the coverage.”