Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum - Rail Service Risks

To: All Branches, Regional Councils and Regional Organisers

10th May 2020
Our Ref: HSR/1/3
Circular No. NP105/20

Dear Colleague,


Further to circular NP/103/20 7th May 2020, I have been made aware that Network Rail are planning for a possible surge in passenger usage on the national railway system on Monday 11th May as a side-effect of the Prime Minister's statement scheduled for 19:00 hours, 10th May.

Network Rail have committed to providing a written "plan" for this scenario later today but it is clear they are putting in place crowd control measures for their managed major stations and this also entails ending some of the temporary provisions and rosters for stations without appropriate consultation with this union at any level.

I informed the NEC that I was preparing guidance and advice to be issued today to members on their rights to protect themselves under Health & Safety legislation and that they should be particularly vigilant on ensuring that 2 metre social distancing should be maintained in line with previous communications.

The NEC have today considered this matter and noted the report and stated our total opposition to attempts by the rail industry and DFT to impose changes in working practices from Monday 11th May when we have agreed to take part in a process to discuss such changes from Monday 18th May. They have condemned the confusion created by government interventions in the rail industry this weekend and as a result stated RMT has no confidence in the ability of the government to manage lockdown or its easing.

I have today as instructed by the NEC sent a text and email to all our Rail and TfL/LUL members advising them of the above and also provided the following advice regarding rail and tube services.

“To be clear no agreement has been made to change any working practices or social distancing arrangements from tomorrow.

Therefore if two metre social distancing cannot be maintained we consider it to be unsafe and members have the legal right to use the worksafe process. On LUL they have the legal right to use the refusal to work policy.

RMT will fully back any member who uses this process to ensure their safety.

You should therefore ensure the following in respect of how you conduct your work:

a) Ensure any arrangements are based on train usage being limited to an average of 20%
b) Social distancing must remain in place at 2m. If there are essential tasks that must be carried out where 2m is not possible then agreed mitigation must be in place.
c) PPE- Surgical masks / visors are not protection from infection and are not mitigation for any failure to implement 2msocial distancing.
d) Social distancing must be possible in staff areas after any increase in services
I will also advise members of any specific local/company level problems that emerge so that further advice can be given as necessary.
The legal right to use the work safe/ /refusal to work process stems from the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Employment Rights Act 1996 which state that employees are protected by law if they decide that their work situation represents a threat of “serious or imminent danger” and as a result of this belief they remove themselves to a place of safety. See also the previous advice issue to rail and tube members. https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/publications/railcovid19briefingv1/

Your union will continue fight to put your safety first and will support all members.”

I will keep you updated and write to you again with regard to any further developments

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary