“With the right PPE it may be possible to reduce social distancing and that would be the way services could return to something more like normal”.
Everyone seems pretty sceptical about this. Would everyone, passengers and staff, need to have this PPE? What makes a difference? It’s 24 hours after the government announcement to “stay alert” and everyone expects more people to start travelling. And that means we will be asked to be “visible” and to assist more.
Already people are complaining about being made to sit in the GLAP (glass box by the barriers). “Who is cleaning it?” I ask. “You can clean it yourself if you like”, I am told by F, a supervisor who clearly hasn’t got time for anyone being “awkward”. I don’t go out there, and no one asks me to again.
Throughout the week people are sitting in it, with barriers marking out two metres so people can stand back from it. We are told you can just direct people to go and ask at the control room.
But even with pointing, two people trying to talk to each other through a glass box, both wearing masks, two metres apart, isn’t easy.
“I got told I could keep the door closed, but then they can’t hear you so you open it, then they come close to you”. K, shakes his head and goes back inside.
We won’t have the same cover soon either. They plan to reopen 37 stations. That means fewer spare staff, busier stations. We’ll be back to our usual shifts in no time.
The WhatsApp pings as we get told a manager is asking people to sit in the GLAP at another station, someone has refused, he’s writing a memo.
“Stations are going to shut, when we can’t get in on busy buses. Unless they are going to put taxis on for all of us, then I’m gonna end up getting here late if I am avoiding people”.
The masks we have been provided — flimsy, surgical face coverings — are optional. I just wear mine to and from work, as the advice suggests. Maybe 25% of customers at most are wearing “face coverings”. It’s on posters now and in announcements, no one really thinks it will do much.
“How many have we got, where do we keep them, can you wash them?” We get told supplies are fine, but it’s the same people who only wanted us to use one glove when doing a security check.
On Thursday I help close up the station. Some maintenance contractors come in just as we close up, “Are you the governor tonight?” one asks. “No, what do you reckon? He’s in his office, us out here are the ones working”.
“Ain’t that right”, the other one who looks like he has a full gas mask on says. “Take it easy anyway, boys. At least it’s not raining”.
• Jay Dawkey is a London Underground worker and RMT union activist