Unions want to tackle third-party violence surge in public transport

9 Mar 2023

Recent events have highlighted the continued risk of third-party violence in public transport. Unions and workers have been taking strike action and holding demonstrations to draw attention to the issue. Incidents, such as rail workers being threatened with a knife in Belgium and a rail worker being stabbed on their way home from their apprenticeship in Germany, prove that there is a very real risk of extreme violence at work for transport workers. An article from Belgian news outlet VRT reported that “there are more than 5 cases of aggression against train staff” in Belgium alone.

The concerning increase in incidents during the Covid-19 pandemic continues to persist. Evidence from Eurofound shows that workers in land transport are twice as likely (19%) to report incidents of bullying, harassment, and violence, along with verbal abuse and threats, compared to the EU average.

The deteriorating job quality has compounded this experience in land transport; transport was second only to health in terms of job quality, the index being based on the level of resources available and how strained the worker felt. Additionally, staff shortages have led to increased workloads and pressure to do overtime in order to maintain service levels.

The ETF demands:

  • The full implementation of existing agreements and recommendations on third-party violence.
  • The operationalisation of a review of current frameworks and best practices to understand how best to fight the scourge of violence.
  • Better staffing levels in order to reduce the risk of violence and improve the occupational health and safety of staff.
  • Training to handle situations of third-party violence
  • Employers to take responsibility for safe commuting to and from work – the ETF is launching their “Get me home safely” campaign to raise awareness on the topic.

Ultimately, it is the government and the employer’s responsibility to provide concrete solutions that ensure maximum safety for transport workers and minimise the risk of third-party violence.


The role of social partners in preventing third violence and harassment at work

ETF-UITP Joint Recommendations for combating violence and insecurity on urban public transport