The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union which represents staff at Southern Railways, claims that its members have been hit, spat at and offered death threats by angry commuters, with abuse of staff increasing “massively” over the last four months of the troubles.

The RMT have already encouraged walkouts over the changing role of conductors on trains and are calling for others over the planned closures of ticket offices. Meanwhile the rail company have reported massive levels of disruption and train cancellation caused by Southern drivers taking “sickies” for a few days, for which they don’t have to supply medical proof and for which they still receive their full pay.

Earlier this month Southern axed 326 trains from its daily timetable to improve reliability after reports that some commuters had lost their jobs due to the delays in getting to work. In June only 66.8% of trains operated by owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) arrived on time, making them the worst-performing railway company in the UK.

GTR own Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.

Whilst no civilised human being would ever condone spitting at railway staff, assaulting them physically or issuing them with death threats the frustration that those who rely on the trains to go about their legitimate business must feel is completely understandable. And those who have lost their jobs over a dispute that is not of their making must feel especially bitter towards the RMT and its members. It is also completely understandable that those affected by the disruptions feel vulnerable, as pawns in the RMT’s game, and as helpless strike fodder held to ransom by the union and its members.

It doesn’t have to be like this. One function of the law is to protect the vulnerable and innocent, and those members of the public who have lost their jobs as a result of the selfish striking RMT members should be able to claim compensation from them through the courts. It is therefore up to a strong government to recognise that such selfish people are bad for society as a whole – and the recent pointless strike of around 300 conductors is said to cost up to £100 million – and pass laws to force the guilty to recompense the innocent victims of their selfishness.

Something to put to your MP? Something to inspire other governments to action?

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