Socialist Worker

Action needed over rail safety threats

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2708

Masks alone are not a safety strategy

Masks alone are not a safety strategy (Pic: RMT)


Transport workers are gearing up for huge battles across the network, as the Tories try to fill buses and trains to reopen the economy.

Workers in London found out last Friday afternoon that the government planned to staff busy stations with volunteers from Monday this week.

The move comes ahead of non-essential shops opening on 15 June, and new rules about mandatory face coverings on public transport at the same time.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said that volunteer “journey makers” would remind travellers to wear face coverings.

“We’re going to have thousands of people from the British Transport Police, Network Rail, Transport for London and actually a whole army of volunteers,” he said.

“They will remind you to put your face covering on.”

But London Underground worker and RMT union rep Phil told Socialist Worker that the move threatens the safety of workers and passengers.

“There’s been no contact with the union, no discussion,” he said. “We got told on Friday it was starting in Brixton on Monday.

“I asked to see a risk assessment and see what the plan is for the volunteers.

“Where are these people going to go for refreshments, where are they going to the toilet and where are they taking rest breaks?”

Frontline

Transport workers are already on the frontline against the virus, and placing extra strain on already poor station facilities puts them even further at risk.

“I’m not going to deny someone the toilet or a drink of water, but if I can’t do that myself safely, I’m going home,” said Phil.

RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said the government had done a “backroom deal” on volunteers.

He added that the union is considering holding a strike ballot.

Workers are yet to see a plan for how Transport for London plans to manage its recommendation that trains should only be 15 percent full.

And Phil said that workers see further battles over pay, cuts and funding

“The big one is going to be the funding—cuts, wage freezes and so on,” he said.

“London Underground has got an emergency grant from the government, but it’s only going to last six months.

“No one knows what happens after that.”


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