15 January 2021
RMT Press Office:
RMT pledges national fight for COVID-safe working on Britain's railways and accuses employers of playing fast and loose in light of virulent new COVID variant.
RAIL UNION RMT said today that it is kicking off a new fight for COVID-safe working practices on Britain's railways after being presented with proposals through the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum that the union says will place lives on the line.
RMT has made it clear that it views the latest assessments 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.
The union is concerned that anecdotal evidence is emerging of greater infections and deaths emerging amongst rail workers and that the experience of the bus industry could be replicated in rail industry. This also has to be viewed against the backdrop of far greater rail and tube usage than during the March lockdown last year. RMT does not accept the rail industry employers assertion that their workplaces are “COVID-secure”.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;
“We are angry and disappointed that the letter we have received this week from the RICF doesn’t reflect the seriousness of the current phase of this pandemic and do not accept that the RICF responses adequately deal with the problems our members face.
“The union believes that there is a dangerous “business as usual” attitude emerging from employers as we do not see evidence of measures being put in place to adequately protect our members, and rigorous 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 that is both untrue and leads to potentially lethal 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 I am issuing 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.
“We are also raising with employers our concerns that their position 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
“We expect employers and Government to recognise that rail workers are key workers and are now facing greater risks from Covid-19 and should be given greater priority for vaccination. We are writing to both the Government and RICF seeking an acceleration of vaccination for transport workers nationwide.”