Emergency Working Principles in the Rail Industry - Coronavirus

Our Ref: BR1/14/2

15 January 2021

To: All RMT TOC members

Dear colleague


Following the announcements of the further lockdowns in England and Wales and the extension of the lockdown in Wales, I have received correspondence from the chairman of the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum, setting out its latest positon (copy attached).

The contents of this correspondence have been considered by your union’s National Executive Committee, which has taken the following decision:

“That we note the correspondence dated 11th January 2021 from the RICF covering the latest country wide lockdown.

The union views the latest news on the new variants that are 56% more contagious and 70% more transmissible as indicating that the risk to our members is greater than at any time since the pandemic hit this country in 2020. We are concerned that anecdotal evidence is emerging of greater infections and deaths emerging amongst rail workers and that the experience since in the Bus Industry could be replicated in rail industry.

We are disappointed that the letter from the RICF doesn’t reflect the seriousness on the current phase of this disease and do not accept or consider the RICF responses adequately deal with the problems our members face.

Indeed, we believe that there is emerging an almost “business as usual” attitude from employers as we do not see evidence of measures being put in place to adequately protect our members and enforcement of such measures in view of the changed and more dangerous phase of this pandemic. We are not confident in the assertion by the employers that workplaces are Covid-19 secure as it leads to complacency.

Ultimately, we would remind the employers of their responsibility to protect their employees and the right of workers to invoke work safe procedures if such protections are not provided or are inadequate. A situation that we believe now exists.

In view of this we instruct the General Secretary to issue revised guidance to our lead officers, representatives and members specific to the work being undertaken to ensure that the measures in place have taken into account the dangers and risks presented by the new variants. In addition, these measures should be enforced and if enforcement is not possible then our members should not be required to undertake such work or activity. We reiterate our position that we will support our members if they have invoked work safe or section 44 procedures to protect themselves or colleagues.

Further the General Secretary is instructed to raise with the RICF our concerns that the letter does not adequately deal with issue of protecting vulnerable workers, payment for workers who are sick due to Covid-19 or are required to self-isolate. This includes the industry’s supply chain

Finally, we note that rail workers are classed as key workers and are now facing greater risks from Covid-19 and believe that they now should be given greater priority for vaccination. Therefore, the General Secretary is instructed to write to both the Government and RICF seeking an acceleration of vaccination for transport workers nationwide.”

I am currently acting on these instructions and will write to you with an update in due course.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary