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TSSA National Strike Warning Over Social Distancing Relaxation

25 June 2020

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has warned of a national strike of the union's members in public transport unless the Government gives unequivocal assurances that the social distancing rules across the transport network will remain at two metres.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has signalled a move towards one metre plus in some business and leisure settings from 4th July in England. However, he also made it clear that where possible the distance should remain at two metres.

The summary findings of the Government’s own review (published 24th June) into the two metre social distancing guidance clearly state 'public transport presents a high risk owing to prolonged indoor contact between a high number of users from different households.....We recommend 1m distancing with face coverings is allowed on public transport; increased capacity is necessary for economic growth...'

Before the Transport Committee in Parliament Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, (24th June) praised the heroic efforts of transport workers during the pandemic, stressing the importance of the two metre signage at stations and stated that public transport “should only be used by those who need to use it.”

Commenting, Cortes said: “I will now be consulting our members over balloting for a national strike on public transport. We must protect transport workers and the travelling public should the Government proceed with this reckless attempt to cut physical distancing to one metre early next month. I urge them to think again.

“Grant Shapps was right to praise the efforts of transport workers who are keeping our country moving and supplied during the Coronavirus health emergency. As the Transport Secretary pointed out, we have seen far too many deaths already in the line of duty.

“Yet it now appears that his words are hollow as the Tories are looking to use these heroic workers as nothing more than cannon fodder. The Government’s own review into social distancing makes clear the ‘high risks’ involved with public transport.

“What is staggering is that in almost the same breath the Review says increased capacity is ‘necessary for economic growth’. In other words - the lives of passengers and our members are being put at risk so that fat cats can accumulate profits.

“This is an outrageous admission by our Government whose first duty must always be to protect lives. We will not let that stand and do all we can to prevent more needless deaths across our transport network.”

Summary finding of Government Review of two metre social distancing guidance, relating to public transport - 

18. Public transport presents a high risk owing to prolonged indoor contact between a high number of users from different households, although this may be mitigated in part by capacity limits, face coverings, screens, cleaning and ventilation. We recommend that 1m distancing with face coverings is allowed on public transport; increased capacity is necessary for economic growth, social activity and to facilitate more children returning to school. There are public service benefits of changing the current guidance. The review considered public services where increases in capacity may be possible over time with suitable mitigations in place. There is further work for departments to do in this area.

*The full Review can be found here - https://bit.ly/2YyXJ4y 

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