Workers at a leading rail company are to be balloted for industrial action after claiming there had been an upsurge in assaults on staff, it was announced today.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union said its members on Southern Railways will vote on whether to launch a campaign of action, adding that assaults had increased following cuts in security measures.
The union claimed that since the cost-cutting exercise was introduced it had seen a "marked increase" in assaults and threats of physical violence against staff, including eight incidents over the first weekend of August.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "RMT will not sit back while Southern management hack back security in a scramble to maximise their profits at the expense of staff and passenger safety.
"It is nothing short of a scandal that the company have failed to take this issue seriously in discussions with our representatives and if they seriously thought we would make any compromise on the issue of attacks on our members then they need to think again.
"RMT will always fight for safety and security and that is why we have declared a formal dispute on this critical issue and will now begin preparations for a ballot for industrial action.
"It is now up to the company to treat safety with the seriousness that it deserves and to begin meaningful discussion with RMT to resolve this dispute."
Southern operates services across the South East, including commuter routes into London.