THE TRANSPORT union RMT last week expressed serious concern over a front-page article last Friday in the Evening Standard headlined: “PURGE OF EXTREMIST WORKERS ON LONDON TRANSPORT”. The editor in chief of the Standard is former Tory Chancellor George Osborne.
The article said that the Minister of State for Security, Ben Wallace, was carrying out a “purge of London’s transport system to protect the public from another Islamic State attack”.
It continued on inside pages with a claim that 3,000 terror suspects were under active scrutiny.The article has prompted a spate of racist attacks on Transport for London staff.
Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT, has wrote to Wallace on Monday: “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 3,000 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.”