By Joe Talora, local democracy reporter
A leading transport workers union has called for greater protection for TfL staff following the deaths of three TfL employees due to Covid-19 in recent days.
The RMT union has written to the Mayor of London and TfL demanding “urgent action” to protect those working on London’s transport network as Covid-19 continues to tear through the capital.
It said it did not wish to enter into a dispute, but ruled “nothing out”.
Among the demands, RMT has called for the suspension of non-essential upgrades and engineering work and for key workers to be exempt from paying the ULEZ or congestion charge to reduce passenger numbers on TfL services.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is demanding urgent action to protect essential transport workers who have been keeping London moving since the Covid pandemic began some nine months ago. With three deaths in recent days of TfL workers amidst the rise of the new Covid variant, immediate steps need to be taken now.
“The union will be backing staff who are vulnerable and if they need to withdraw to the safety of their home then we will support them. The only way we can get through the pandemic to the other side of a vaccinated and safe London is if transport staff are adequately protected.
“While we do not wish to enter into a dispute situation in this matter, we rule nothing out if our demands are not met, as we believe the employer and those responsible for TfL should take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of its workers and the wider community.”
The plea comes a week after TfL announced it planned to run services “as close to normal as possible” during lockdown to allow social distancing for those who need to make essential journeys.
But TfL did warn that disruption to services including station closures could be expected as up to 10 per cent of TfL operational staff are currently absent because they are self-isolating, ill, or because they are clinically vulnerable.
TfL has reiterated that “robust measures” are in place to protect staff and passengers, including rigorous cleaning and regular testing that has so far revealed no evidence of Covid-19 in the air on surfaces on buses and the Tube.
Andy Lord, managing director of London Underground, said: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of our colleagues who have sadly passed away from coronavirus.
“The safety of our colleagues and customers is the most important thing to us and we are regularly meeting with the trade unions to work together and respond to their concerns.
“We continue to follow Public Heath England and Government guidance and we are supporting clinically extremely vulnerable colleagues to shield at home. We will continue to take robust measures to reduce the risk of infection in workplaces in addition to the continued regular rigorous cleaning of the transport network and staff facilities.”
An independent review into the deaths of 34 TfL employees, including 29 London bus drivers, last year from March to May led to the implementation of several safety measures including protective screens for bus drivers and the provision of face coverings for all TfL staff.
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