TRANSPORT union RMT has blasted Transport for London (TfL) for calling on staff in South African variant postcodes to ‘come into work as normal’ thus exposing them to the virulent new strain of the coronavirus and undoubtedly putting their lives at risk.
RMT wrote yesterday to TfL Commissioner Andy Byford condemning guidance that workers in postcodes being targeted for surge testing should come into work as normal.
On Monday night, Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on people in a series of postcodes across the country, including in London and the East of England, to stay at home and help bring the new South African variant to heel.
The same evening, TfL issued guidance to its staff including in those postcodes, stating that if they could not work from home they should come into work as normal.
In his letter, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Your position, in clear contradiction of the government’s statement, has understandably caused mass dismay and anxiety among London Underground and TfL members and we are dealing with the consequences of that now.
‘You appear to be calling on people to come to work who have just been urged by the government to stay at home, putting themselves, their families, communities and work colleagues at risk in the process.
‘This is totally unacceptable. You need to take back control of this situation rapidly. I am asking that you write to all TfL staff now amending this guidance to reflect the government’s position before this situation escalates any further.’
Scores of transport workers have caught coronavirus and died, notably Belly Mujinga a 47-year-old Congolese-born woman.
Mujinga was selling tickets for Govia Thameslink Railway at London Victoria station when she and a co-worker, Motolani Sunmola, neither of whom had PPE, were spat and coughed on by a 57-year-old man who claimed to have the virus on 21 March 2020.
Mujinga was later taken to Barnet Hospital with Covid-19, put on a ventilator, but later died. According to a worker at the station, Mujinga had requested that she work in the enclosure due to her respiratory issues, but was forced to work on the concourse without even a mask.
Meanwhile, the official death toll for London bus drivers has now reached 43, although unofficial counts suggest more than 50 have died. According to the latest data from the ONS, bus drivers are among the professions most vulnerable to the pandemic. Across the country, there have been 83 bus and coach driver deaths, a rate of 70.3 per 100,000.