Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1085/30735
The Socialist 6 May 2020 |
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No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers
A poster at a London tube station (Click to enlarge)
RMT members in London
There are reports the government is considering abandoning advice to maintain two metres social distancing.
This comes as no surprise to the RMT. We had seen a presentation by London Underground to the International Union of Public Transport in which it argued that social distancing must be reduced to 0.5 metres in order to meet the expected demands for capacity under a "soft lockdown".
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the so-called science can be changed according to whatever the government wants to do at any given time.
For all the fancy talk about working in the national interest, and cooperation between industry and unions, we are seeing the same old disregard for workers as the bosses try to get the economy moving again.
Let's be clear. We all understand the need to be able to produce the stuff we need. Our public services and day-to-day needs cannot be met if the whole economy is shut down. But getting it moving cannot be left in the hands of the same government and bosses that have made such a mess of the crisis so far.
The fact that the UK did not have, and cannot manufacture, sufficient PPE or tests is not an unavoidable consequence of the emergence of coronavirus. The government modelled a pandemic just like this back in 2016. It concluded that the NHS would not have enough critical care beds or ventilators. It did nothing.
Workers on the tube and across public transport services must be able to maintain two metres social distancing unless, and until, it is clearly safe to move away from this. The only mitigation for working without social distancing is PPE, and that doesn't mean wrapping a scarf around your face. With proper PPE unavailable we have no mitigations in place on London Underground
There are 20,000 London bus drivers, and there are at least 22 known coronavirus deaths among them. That's a rate of more than one per 1,000. Far higher than the rate for NHS staff. Many bus drivers believe this tragedy was avoidable, and was made worse than it could have been by the refusal of Transport for London and the bus companies to seal the front doors and limit boarding to the middle doors. Eventually this has been done, but too late for many.
Tube workers want to provide an essential service, but not with a reckless disregard for our safety.
We have not looked to shut down the tube in this crisis. RMT members have demonstrated a commitment to provide a service to those who really need to travel around London. We will also get that service back up to a more intensive service when we can do so safely and without gambling with our lives. We will not have a near full service imposed on us by politicians and bosses who only care about themselves.