Attacks on European telecom workers and masts must stop

News

Industry trade bodies jointly call for an end to attacks including arson on masts and steps to protect field engineers at work.

Telcos' employees in the Netherland and the UK have suffered physical and verbal attacks, and more than 120 attacks on towers are being investigated across ten European countries  – Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

The attacks appear to be due to the proliferation of misinformation on social networks regarding 5G and mobile technology including claims that telecom antennas threaten public health and 5G is linked to the spread of coronavirus.

Statements from the likes of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Commission pointing out these claims are without foundation have had little effect.

Bodies step in

The European trade union federation representing telecom workers, UNI Europa ICTS, and the Associations representing the telecoms industry, ETNO and the GSMA, have joined forces to call for swift, institutional action to stop attacks against telecom employees while carrying out work such as repairing networks or installing essential network equipment, and to promote correct information about mobile technology.

The parties also demand steps to minimise the spread of misinformation that encourages attacks against workers and infrastructure.

They point out that the arson attacks could take down critical telecoms infrastructure during the pandemic crisis, and could as well as putting workers in danger, could result in injury to the attackers and members of the public.

The right to safety

UNI Europa ICTS, ETNO and the GSMA believe that every worker has the absolute right to a safe working environment. Their statement read, “We therefore ask the [European Union] institutions, national governments and enforcement authorities to take swift action in protecting the safety of telecom workers across Europe and in fighting against all false claims on mobile technology.

“In this context, it is particularly important to underline how scientific evidence clearly indicates that mobile technology can be operated safely. EU Member States should step up their work on informing European citizens and should continue to support independent research.

“The ongoing escalation in misinformation and attacks against workers is absolutely unacceptable. In the long term, it also threatens Europe’s ability to leverage the 5G technology in supporting current and future jobs.”