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Drugs, racism fuelling abuse of staff on public transport

Trade union SIPTU has said that a survey of its members highlights the role increasing drug use and racism is playing in the abuse and anti-social behaviour faced by staff on the public transport network.

Conducted as part of the union’s Respect Transport Workers campaign, the research found that just under 80% of respondents said the issue of drug use by passengers on public transport had got worse in the last 12 months.

Nearly three-quarters said that they witnessed drug abuse in their workplaces several times a month, while just under 20% said drug use was an issue they dealt with on a nearly daily basis.

More than 73% of respondents said they had felt threatened and unsafe due to the use of drugs by passengers.

According to the study, most incidents reported were of cannabis use but between a quarter and a third of respondents, said they witnessed the use of cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine.

The research also focused on the particular issues faced by ethnic minority community staff with more than three quarters reporting incidents of racist harassment and abuse while at work.

More than 650 SIPTU members employed across the public transport network were surveyed for the study.

As part of the same campaign, SIPTU released a survey in February showing that 80% of respondents felt that abuse and anti-social behaviour was an issue for them at work.

Public transport operators have said they have taken steps to address anti-social behaviour through increased cooperation with gardaí, staff training, educational programmes and investment in CCTV.

SIPTU representatives are due to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee today to discuss the issue of anti-social behaviour on public transport.

They will tell members that they are seeking a dedicated public transport policing unit, the establishment of a National Transport Authority Advisory Council and the introduction of a transport charter.

“SIPTU believes that a Transport Charter must be introduced which would outline what is and is not acceptable behaviour towards public transport staff,” the union will say in its opening address to the committee.

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