ASSAULTS ON V/LINE STAFF SOAR

Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - HAR­RI­SON TIPPET & CHAD VAN ESTROP

ASSAULTS and ver­bal abuse of V/Line staff on the Gee­long line have sky­rock­eted, lat­est fig­ures re­veal.

So far this year V/Line has recorded 41 assaults against staff on the Gee­long line, and 378 in­ci­dents of ver­bal abuse.

The fig­ures have al­most dou­bled com­pared to the year to June 2016, when there were 21 staff assaults and 178 in­ci­dents of ver­bal abuse.

In 2018 so far there have been 360 Gee­long trains im­pacted by un­ruly be­hav­iour, with 96 ser­vices forced to stop to deal with is­sues on board.

V/Line chief ex­ec­u­tive James Pin­der spoke out against the abuse. “No one should ex­pe­ri­ence abuse, threats or ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in the work­place,” Mr Pin­der said.

“Our front-line staff work their hard­est ev­ery day to help get V/Line pas­sen­gers where they need to go and should be treated re­spect­fully.”

“Un­ruly be­hav­iour isn’t tol­er­ated on V/Line ser­vices and we will take ac­tion if nec­es­sary to keep our staff and pas­sen­gers safe.

“Due to the ed­u­ca­tion work we have done and closer co-or­di­na­tion with Vic­to­ria Po­lice, our staff are more con­fi­dent to re­port in­ci­dents as they oc­cur.”

Rail, Tram and Bus Union branch sec­re­tary Luba Grig­orovitch also hit out at the assaults, ramp­ing up calls for staff to work in pairs at cer­tain times.

“Our mem­bers have ev­ery right to be able to go to work and re­turn home feel­ing safe and un­harmed af­ter a day of serv­ing the trav­el­ling pub­lic,” Ms Grig­orovitch said.

“It is sim­ply not OK to spit on, abuse or as­sault cus­tomer ser­vice of­fi­cers who are sim­ply do­ing their job.”

The lat­est fig­ures come af­ter a pair of whistle­blow­ers last year claimed they were sacked af­ter be­ing as­saulted by a pas­sen­ger at Lara sta­tion in 2015.

A fe­male con­duc­tor who was left with loose teeth af­ter be­ing punched in the mouth claimed she was sacked af­ter rais­ing con­cerns.

A 17-year-old girl was charged with reck­lessly caus­ing in­jury and un­law­ful as­sault. The fe­male con­duc­tor sacked in June 2016 said she had to step in to pro­tect her col­leagues dur­ing the Lara as­sault.

“I stepped for­ward to ba­si­cally try and pro­tect them. I saw her hit­ting (one of the autho­rised of­fi­cers) be­fore I got there,” she said in her state­ment to po­lice. “I gave her a shove to get her away. The next thing I know I have a fist in my face … it felt like my nose had been pushed off my face.”

Three of the four of­fi­cers in­volved in the in­ci­dent were sacked and a WorkCover claim for one was thrown out.

V/Line spokesman Rob Cur­tain last year told the Addy the out­come of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Lara in­ci­dent was con­fi­den­tial.

He said staff were trained to “re­treat” to a safe lo­ca­tion at sta­tions or on trains when threat­ened.

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