Our ref: HSR/1/3
Head Office Circular: NP/18/21
15th January 2021
To: The Secretary
CORONAVIRUS – COVID-19 – NETWORK RAIL
Following discussions all this week between RMT Officers and National Representatives with Network Rail arising from the new Covid-19 lockdown on working principles and arrangements for staff in the workplace, I can report that we have not been able to reach agreement on a principles document as we were able to do at the commencement of the first lockdown in the Spring of 2020.
A report from the Lead Officer was considered by the National Executive Committee who noted and adopted the following resolution:
That we note the report on file from the Lead Officer and the proposed Covid Principles from Network Rail and our own proposed principles. We further note the Operation continuity during COVID email from Network Rail that shows that Network Rail managers are playing fast and loose with the health, safety and welfare of our members. This Union will not sit back and allow Network Rail, or any other employer, to go back to a business as usual approach while the infection and death rate of this virus is the highest it has ever been.
Accordingly, the General Secretary is instructed to take this matter up in line with the Lead Officer’s report and to cascade this to our members as a matter of urgency.
The General Secretary is also instructed to seek an urgent report from the Lead Officer for TfW and AKI in respect of the steps they are taking to protect our members working on the Infrastructure in the South Wales Core Valley Lines.
Members to be informed by text and email.
Relevant Branches, Regional Councils and Reps to be advised.
The main points from your Lead Officer’s report are as follows:
Your union has no confidence in the assertion by Network Rail that their workplaces are “Covid-secure”. The infection rate of Network Rail staff, fatalities and serious illness continues to rapidly increase so members are strongly advised that their chief responsibility is to ensure their own protection against transmission and that of their co-workers and households and they should act accordingly.
There should be stringent adherence to two metre social distancing.
For Infrastructure workers, when planned work is completed then you should return home, remain home and WILL remain contactable and available in the event of requiring to attend a service affecting failure for the duration of rostered turn of duty and inform your manager that you are putting yourself in a position of safety.
Only one occupant in long wheel base vehicles, unless there is an approved and agreed barrier in place where this can be extended to two occupants in their own partitioned space.
Only one occupant in short wheel base vehicles.
Where work can be completed from home, stay home and inform your manager.
Only essential employees and visitors to be allowed in any work location, in the event that a non-essential employee or visitor enters your location you should stop what you are doing and put yourself in a position of safety, this can include returning home until your location is safe.
That members should invoke the worksafe procedures where these Covid protection measures are not in place or are not being observed.
That there should be no congregating of staff or others in the workplace for purposes such as training, briefings, meetings and so on and that stringent two metre social distancing measures and other relevant protections should be enforced.
That the NHS Test & Trace App should be turned on an enabled at all times in the workplace, in vehicles and at work sites where the railway rulebook allows for this.
That RMT will not cooperate or endorse the Lateral Flow Testing regime that Network Rail is implementing. The company is seeking in coerce members in to taking these tests and entering the work place after the NHS App has instructed them to self-isolate. This coercion takes the form of not paying published roster earnings but reducing to basic pay if the test is not taken and the member does not attend work. This is entirely unacceptable to your union.
For members who are Critically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) or live in a CEV household you are advised to remain at home.
For members who are Critically Vulnerable (or moderate risk) you are advised to remain at home until an individual risk assessment and occupational health repost has been undertaken.
Members should be advised of the worksafe procedures and that RMT will provide total support to members who need to invoke those procedures and stop the job and move to a place of safety on the basis of the Covid conditions.
Where members invoke these guidance points they should do so in the context of the company’s worksafe procedures and in line with the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) as amended, Part V, Section 44.
Further information on Worksafe Procedures is available on the RMT website at:
I am acting in accordance with these instructions.
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members. The Lead Officer’s report and RMT’s Safe Work Principles for Network Rail Staff and Contractors document are attached to this circular.