Rail staff are being put at risk of '˜abuse and assault' after sickness records publicised '“ say union bosses

Southern bosses are putting their staff at risk of '˜abuse and assault' which could spark a '˜major incident' '“ claims rail union RMT.

The union says that the ‘persistent campaign of abuse and denigration of its front-line workforce by Southern/GTR is leaving staff open to attacks and assaults by members of the public’.

Last week. Southern released figures showing that over the last 32 working days the company has been hit by 1,066 days of conductor absence, an average of more than 33 a day.

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The rate of absence has more than doubled since the first conductors’ strike on April 26, while in the last month one in six conductors have taken at least one day off sick – according to Southern figures.

An average of 83 Southern services are being cancelled due to the current sickness problems, added the rail company.

In a letter released by the union today (Tuesday), the RMT warned that the ‘cynical attempt to blame ‎delays and cancellations on staff sickness, when they are in fact down to staff shortages created by a failure to recruit enough workers to fill new rosters’ leaves members on trains and stations at risk’.

The union says that it only takes one person to fall for the company spin and to take matters into their own hands and we will have a major incident on our hands.

General Secretary Mick Cash said, “The abuse and denigration of its own workforce by Southern/GTR has to stop before we have a major incident on our hands.

“The grossly irresponsible attitude that this failing outfit has adopted amounts to incitement and leaves lone-workers and women particularly vulnerable.

“Luckily, the vast majority of passengers don’t believe a word that this company says. They know full well what this failing franchise is all about as they seek to milk their customers for every penny that they can.

“Over the weekend there were wholesale cancellations on Thameslink services which were nothing to do with staff sickness and everything to do with gross mismanagement of this franchise.

“It only takes one or two ‎people to buy into the company propaganda and we could have a major incident on our hands. No responsible company, which recognises it’s duty of care to its staff, would take that kind of risk.”

A Southern spokesman said the company had no further comment to add to the company’s statement last week, which said, “We would not usually release such information, but passengers deserve to know the reasons behind the unusually high level of train cancellations they are presently experiencing.

“For those conductors who are ill the company is offering all the support we are able to and working out how they can get back to work. But these figures show a remarkable and unprecedented level of sickness absence which commenced at the time of the first strike.

“We are presently looking into what steps can be taken to investigate this deterioration in the health of conductors across the south of England.”

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