July 2021 Removal of Covid-19 Transport Regulations and Protections

To all Branches and Regional Councils
Head Office Circular No. NP/253/21

16th July 2021


I write in relation to a decision taken yesterday at a Special Meeting of the RMT National Executive Committee when it met to consider the following report placed before them.

The UK government have confirmed that COVID – 19 regulations and protections will be removed from 19th July. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have also announced easing of restrictions but with a number of measures still in place.

I wrote to all the Governments on 13th July stating no protections should be removed in the transport sectors without the agreement of the RMT and on the basis of the evidence. It should be noted that the Scottish and Welsh governments have for the time being said 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. Although they don’t have the same powers as the Mayor of London the Metros Mayors for Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, Sheffield City Region and West of England have issued a statement saying they will use what powers they have to make mask mandatory and have called for the government to change their position.

The UK government have said passengers are encouraged to wear masks in certain circumstances.

With regard to the rail sector discussions have continued with RICF and the ORR who have produced the final attached document. I have also provided the attached draft RMT advice to go with this document.

With regard to the bus industry, I can advise you that talks took place with Confederation of Passenger Transport Executives on 13th July and a note is attached to the file.

I also wrote to the Chamber of Shipping and MCA on Friday but have not received a response.

In light of the above I would recommend the following.

· The union to write to all employers advising them that we believe existing Covid – 19 workplace protections should remain. We should also remind them of their legal obligations that if they wish to implement change they are obliged to review all risk assessments and where necessary put in place new risk assessment in light of the new circumstances arising from the removal / easing of lockdown restrictions. Also, to demand those transport operators who have not done so to make the mandatory wearing of masks for passengers a condition of carriage and demand that they make FFP3 masks available for those staff who wish to wear them. We should also advise our members to continue wearing masks where they have previously done so at work.

The union to identify with the employers what we believe to be the new risks, including increased passenger numbers and work activity arising from the removal / easing of lockdown restrictions; passengers no longer social distancing or wearing masks; the rapidly increasing prevalence of the virus, infections and the increase in R number; the continued vulnerability of large sections of the workforce to the virus because they are not fully vaccinated or because the vaccine does not work or they have vulnerable conditions; the emerging evidence around Long Covid.

· The union to demand that any reviews of risk assessment to be line with of the latest ORR document and the RMT advice to go with the document.

Our officers and reps to be advised today to use the attached latest ORR document and accompanying advice in discussions with employers. This to be followed by more detailed RMT Guidance.

We also advise all member this week of our actions and basic steps they should continue to take at the workplace such as wearing masks where they have previously continued to do so and their rights not to work on grounds of health and safety. Namely to involve Work Safe Procedure and/or invoke Section 44 of the Employment Relations Act (removing themselves to a place of safety in the face of imminent and serious danger).

The union should explore the possibility of holding a Webinar for our health and safety reps on the new arrangements and situation.

The matter is placed before you for consideration.

The decision of the Special NEC as regards the above was as follows:

That we note the content on the agenda write up and instruct the General Secretary to take up this resolution in line with the actions listed, additionally he is further instructed to disseminate the actions to all regional organisers as a matter of urgency .

All members, branches and regional councils to be advised.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep you advised of developments. Please also note that you can find the updated guidance the union has sent to safety reps here. https://bit.ly/3emUZyn

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary