Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living!

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 08:53,
A graphic representation of a coronavirus particle

Latest figures show that 57 transport workers in London have died from Covid-19.

The majority, 42, of these were bus workers, highly exposed by their employers' unforgivable foot-dragging over moving to middle-door boarding and implementing additional distancing measures. Eight of the deaths are of Tube/rail workers, with three from TfL offices, and three from outsourced employers.

These are not just statistics. These were 57 real people - workmates and friends, with families, who each leave people devastated by their loss. Their deaths reaffirm that transport workers, especially those who work in passenger-facing jobs, are at high risk. We must demand increased workplace safety.

On the Tube, a full train service is being run, despite ridership being at only 18% of pre-pandemic levels. Although there is some understandable nervousness about advocating service and staffing reductions in line with demand, and fears that bosses could make such cuts permanent, the emergency safety concerns must take precedence here. Only those workers who absolutely need to be in work in order to provide a safe, baseline essential service should be in. LU must ditch new guidance that implies Covid-related absence could be subject to disciplinary action, a highly dangerous approach that explicitly contravenes the latest policy from the national Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum.

RMT has rightly demanded temporary reductions in train services and the suspension of all non-essential engineering work. Staffing levels and shift allocation for station staff and outsourced workers including cleaners should be reviewed by local reps to ensure there is no staffing surplus above essential levels, and the maximum number of workers are able to follow the government's "stay at home" guidance, with no loss of pay.

RMT has also demanded:

  • That reps are given sight of any data or reports addressing the risk of airborne transmission of Covid-19 in TfL workplaces and especially in sub-surface stations and on-board trains.
  • An assurance that no member of staff who is Clinically Vulnerable or Clinically Extremely Vulnerable will be required to attend the workplace if that member of staff feels it is unsafe for them to do so.
  • An assurance that no member of staff will be required to use TfL or other public transport services to travel to or from work where 2m social distancing cannot be maintained. Key workers should be exempted from the Congestion and ULEZ charges.
  • The provision of an FFP2/N95 type mask for any member of staff who wishes to have one when working in public areas.

  • Our unions should also take up a political fight for an expanded vaccination programme. It's right that more vulnerable people are prioritised, but an expanded programme could also expand prioritisation by extending it to frontline, public-facing workers.

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