Our ref: HSR/1/3
Head Office Circular: NP/5/21
6th January 2021
To: The Secretary
TRANSPORT FOR WALES RAIL SERVICES (TFWRS) – COVID-19 - RELAXATION OF CONTROL MEASURES IN THE WORKPLACE CONCERNS
The following resolution was carried by Cardiff Rail Branch:
Health and Safety representatives have grave concerns for the health, safety and welfare of members employed at Transport For Wales Rail Services (TFWRS) due to the relaxation of control measures in relation to the spread of COVID 19 in the workplace. Management engagement with safety reps is not sufficient and changes are being imposed without due consideration and consultation with reps. At the time of writing Wales is experiencing record levels of infection and this is being replicated in the workplace with large numbers of staff either testing positive or having to self-isolate due to possible infection. TFWRS are to be commended on their initial approach to health and safety matters when this pandemic began, with many effective and reassuring measures taken to ensure the safety of members. However in recent months this has not been the case and the focus appears to have shifted from ensuring the safety of members of staff and the public to mitigating the losses the company has sustained at the expense of robust safety measures.
Health and safety representatives at TFWRS report emails and requests for information being routinely ignored by management and advice given to staff members contravening government guidelines on a regular basis. Representatives have been informed by members that they have been advised to attend for duty, by resources, line managers and even HR, whilst awaiting COVID test results and after members of their household have received positive test results. This is completely unacceptable and a clear contravention of the guidelines.
Compounding these issues, a brief was recently sent out to all staff by the director of safety, Leyton Powell, requesting all staff to disable the NHS Covid 19 track and trace app whilst on duty. We are told this is due to ‘a large number of false alerts’ resulting in members having to self-isolate but no explanation has been given as to how these alerts are found to be false. We feel this goes directly against the government’s and the NHS own advice to only turn off the app under 3 circumstances –
1, if the phone is stored in a locker whilst they are working
2, if they are already protected by a Perspex or equivalent screen
3, if they are a health and care worker and are wearing medical grade PPE, such as a surgical mask, in a clinical setting.
As TFWRS have repeatedly refused to implement a proper track and trace system for members at messrooms and other shared facilities, the removal of the additional protection provided by use of the NHS app is a blatant disregard for the safety of members in the name of cost cutting.
Representatives also report that important safety meetings between management and reps have been cancelled at short notice and not rescheduled, there has only been one of these vital quarterly meetings since the pandemic was declared in March. Quarterly inspection reports by representatives have also been ignored and management have not even had the decency to respond to them, let alone act on their recommendations, despite them being mandated by legislation.
A trial with the aim of restarting on board revenue has begun but we as a branch feel this is incompatible with the current situation and should be stopped with immediate effect as community case numbers are far too high across the entire Welsh rail network for this to be carried out safely. Passenger numbers, whilst still low compared to pre pandemic times are often above the agreed social distancing capacity, especially for certain school and college services and attempts to control numbers with security staff have become almost non existent at some locations, even when security staff are in place. Until such time as these numbers can and are controlled then we do not believe it is safe for members to be inside the saloons except for emergency reasons.
This branch therefore requests the National Executive Committee to instruct the General Secretary to :-
- Ask TFWRS to withdraw the NHS app brief immediately and encourage use of the app.
- Launch formal failure to agree procedures against TFWRS until such time as they enter in to meaningful and productive consultation and engagement with RMT health and safety representatives at all locations and grades within the business BEFORE decisions affecting the health, safety and welfare of members are taken.
- Contact the director of safety at TFWRS and remind them of their obligations under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Act (1997) and The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), to consult registered trade union safety representatives and to provide any information required under the acts, to the said representatives on request and as a matter of course.
- Request the on board revenue trial cease immediately and not restart until such time as the risk of transmission of COVID 19 has decreased substantially in the communities we serve.
- Raise these matters with our Parliamentary group and the RMT Wales Political Committee
- Issue a circular to all TFWRS members, branches and regional councils advising them of this resolution.
This branch believes these to be reasonable and proportionate requests to aid in ensuring our members health, safety and welfare at work during these unprecedented times.
*A copy of the NHS app brief and relevant correspondence relating to these issues can be supplied on request.
At its meeting on 22nd December 2020, your NEC adopted the following resolution:
That we note the resolution on file from our Cardiff Rail Branch and the concerns raised within, and that TfW RS have issued a brief requesting all staff to disable the NHS Covid 19 track and trace app whilst on duty. We further note that members have been advised to attend for duty, by resources, line managers and even HR, whilst awaiting COVID test results and after members of their household have received positive test results. This NEC also notes that Safety Meetings are being cancelled and Quarterly Inspections reports ignored.
The Branch also reports that they feel a trial with the aim of restarting on board revenue should be stopped with immediate effect due to the worsening situation with the Covid pandemic.
Accordingly, the General Secretary is instructed to:
Write to TfW RS demanding they withdraw the NHS app brief immediately and encourage use of the app.
Inform the Branch that the H&S Reps should register a failure to agree on each issue they have concerns on and progress this through the agreed machinery of negotiations.
Write to the director of safety at TfW RS and remind them of their obligations under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Act (1997) and The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).
Write to TfW RS demanding that the on board revenue trial cease immediately and not restart until such time as the risk of transmission of COVID 19 has decreased substantially in the communities that the company operate in.
Raise these matters with our Welsh Parliamentary group.
Place these matters on the agenda of the next Wales Political Committee meeting.
Members to be informed by text and email.
Relevant Branches, Regional Councils and Reps to be advised
I am acting in accordance with these instructions.
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.