||Issue No. 197||26 September 2003|
Coming to the Party
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
A Sick War
Violence: Rail Workers' Hot Spray
Train guard, Isabelle Mills, said she had seen other workers spat on and repeatedly witnessed masturbation during her time as a City Rail employee.
"We shouldn't have to threaten industrial action," she told Workers Online.
Train guards - who have been pulled from moving trains, spat on, abused, had objects thrown at them and had to deal with violent and unruly passengers on a day to day basis - are calling for security on train services to be beefed up.
"I had a man come up with his hand in his pocket in the shape of a gun and he went 'bang'," says Mills, who has found the abuse to be a regular part of her job. "It affects people very much. It affects your family life."
Incidents are not confined to late night services with one rail worker describing how a passenger broke a beer bottle over his own head on a mid-morning service in the Hunter Valley. In that incident a rail guard was forced to deal with two potentially violent men who abused and intimidated other passengers on the service.
Train guards receive no training in how to deal with violent passengers or those affected by drugs and alcohol.
Rail workers are calling on management and the NSW state government to address the issue in the in the interests of staff and the comfort of other passengers.
"The railways have something to gain from improving the situation,' says Mills, who has described overcrowding on state rail services as a "recipe to be abused."
Mills says that rail workers want passengers to enjoy their train travelling experience, but that violence is hindering efforts to maintain safety.
"The feeling is that management would take the side of the person who is assaulting you," says John Henry who has 21 years of experience as a train guard. "If you get abused by someone it can be traumatic."
Henry says that the situation facing rail workers is deteriorating with violent incidents on the increase. His experience is backed up by statistics that show a marked increase in violence on state rail services since the Olympics.
"We're filling in security incident reports day after day,' says Henry. "Just about every train has an incident on it."
Workers Online understands City Rail employees are set to refuse to operate services during the Rugby World Cup unless management addresses their safety concerns.
Rail Tram and Bus Union Newcastle organiser Mick Schmitzer has attacked State Government hypocrisy over underfunding for rail services, leaving frontline rail staff as the "meat in the sandwich" and bearing the brunt of management decisions.
Newcastle based rail staff want to see a greater profile for the new Transit Officers, with a full time 'depot' for the officers based in Newcastle.
"Transit Officers have made a big impact," says Henry. "They do a good job."
Rail workers believed an increased presence by Transit Officers would lead to a decrease in anti-social behaviour on trains.
The NSW Labor Council will be convening a forum to address the problem of violence against rail workers on Tuesday September 30.
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