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Belly Mujinga - a nation mourns

21 May 2020

Since publicising the sad story of Belly Mujinga's death last week, our union and Belly's family have been overwhelmed by the coverage and kind messages pouring in.

Belly Mujinga was a ticket office clerk at London’s Victoria Station. She and a colleague were spat and coughed at on the concourse by a man claiming to have coronavirus. We do not know if that is how the two staff contracted the virus, but within days they both had coronavirus and Belly – who had an underlying health problem – died in hospital leaving her husband and 11 year old daughter.

Belly’s story has touched people across the country – from other transport workers, to the Prime Minister. Both BBC and ITV London news led with Belly’s story that evening, with Channel 4 News, Sky and other broadcasters also prominently covering the story. Belly’s photo was on three national newspaper front pages the following day – the Guardian, Metro and Daily Mail – as well as featuring across a range of local, trade and even international media. Her family bravely and emotionally spoke of their loss, and our TSSA organiser Maggie Hayes was interviewed.

On Wednesday of last week, the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament opened with Boris Johnson saying: “Yesterday this house learnt of the tragic death of Belly Mujinga. The fact that she was abused while doing her job is utterly appalling. My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of the whole house, are with her family.” This was followed by opposition leader Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, saying: “I send my condolences to the families of all of those who have lost their lives due to coronavirus, including the family of Belly Mujinga, as the PM referenced, she was a ticket officer who we learned this week died of covid-19 in awful circumstances.”

Our union has received messages from far and wide – including from America and Germany as well as across Britain and Ireland. “The story literally made me sob into my hands”, wrote one person, who went on to say: “As with the majority of the UK public, I have so much respect for all the key workers throughout the country who, day after day, go about their work in these strange and worrying times.” Another kind gesture has come from someone offering to knit a rainbow comfort blanket for Belly’s daughter. We are forwarding messages and any cards etc to the family so please send yours to comms@tssa.org.uk or our postal address at the bottom of our website.

Many people asked if there was a fundraiser for Belly’s family. The answer is yes and it’s still open here for anyone who is able to donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rip-belly-mujinga

The British Transport Police is now investigating the incident and our union, Belly’s family and colleagues are supporting that investigation.

Commenting, our General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Belly’s story has touched the nation and has travelled across the world. The protection of transport and all front line workers is absolutely essential. These are the people who have kept our country moving through the worst of the pandemic and that’s why I’ve written to the Prime Minister asking for the compensation scheme currently available to NHS staff to be extended to transport workers.

“In many of my meetings and calls I have people passing on their condolences and saying how much Belly’s story affected them, including the Transport Secretary this week. Belly’s is one of too many sad stories of people losing their lives. We now want the best protections and safest workplaces for all workers to prevent anyone catching this terrible disease.”

Our Organiser Maggie Hayes is representing members at GTR based in Victoria Station and she added: “I am in awe of Belly’s family and colleagues. But unfortunately there are still basic protections missing from GTR workplaces, such as protective visors for frontline staff. If the company is serious about protecting its staff then they must provide visors and put in place better health and safety measures at Victoria station and elsewhere. We won’t be letting this go.”
 

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