Our Ref: HSR/3/1
Head Office Circular: NP/21/22
27th January 2022
To: All members
ALL BRANCHES –
INCLUDING SHIPPING BRANCHES
JANUARY 2022 REMOVAL OF COVID-19 PROTECTIONS
I write in relation to the recent decision of UK Government to end “Plan B” restrictions in England, including the removal of the legal requirement for people to work from home and the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor spaces, with the only proviso in relation to face masks being that:
Public health guidance will remain in place, suggesting individuals should continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
For more information on the current Government guidance for the transport sector see “Coronavirus (Covid-19): safety transport guidance for operators and people who work in or from vehicles”: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-transport-guidance-for-operators/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-transport-guidance-for-operators
(contained within this is the guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
It should be noted that the Scottish and Welsh governments have for the time being said that face coverings should continue to be mandatory. Eurostar have said the wearing of masks will be a condition of carriage, as has the Mayor of London. This confused and inconsistent approach to face coverings on public transport places front line workers at danger of abuse and assault.
RMT’s general position is that the wearing of face coverings for passengers on public transport and in transport facilities should continue to be compulsory, particularly as infection rates related to Omicron are very high and many people are still in hospital with the infection - and also now that “Plan B” has been lifted and more people return to work, cases may well rise.
RMT’s view is that in the absence of a Government requirement for compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport, the transport companies should maintain it as mandatory as a condition of carriage. RMT’s advice to members is to continue wearing masks where they have previously done so at work. We have previously written to employers to demand that they make FFP3 face masks available for those staff who wish to wear them.
If you believe you are not safe or in danger, for example in relation to a violence at work issue or having to work in a crowded and or poorly ventilated work environment, then report the details to your Line Manager or Supervisor. Do not proceed with the activity and, if necessary, involve the Work Safe Procedure (or equivalent). Ultimately, you may invoke Section 44 of the Employment Relations Act 1996 (which means removing yourself to a place of safety in the face of imminent and serious danger). Further information on serious and imminent danger can be found on RMT website at https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/publications/serious-and-imminent-danger-booklet/
Employers are legally obliged that if they wish to implement change they must review all risk assessments and, where necessary, put in place a new risk assessment in light of the new circumstances arising from the removal/ easing of lockdown restrictions - and they should include RMT safety representatives in this process. In connection with this I will shortly be writing to RMT safety reps with updated guidance on Covid-19 risk assessments and mitigation measures.