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TSSA Welcomes Government Transport Coronavirus Talks - Calls For Wider Involvement

15 March 2020

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has welcomed moves by the Department for Transport (DfT) to hold Coronavirus talks by telephone on Monday with transport trade unions. However, Cortes is urging Ministers to widen the talks to take in all industry stakeholders.

The move follows a joint letter from the unions (TSSA, Aslef, Unite) to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, last week urging him to show leadership in the face of the unfolding crisis over COVID19.

Commenting, Manuel Cortes said: “I’m glad our letter has sparked the DfT into life and I certainly welcome the move to hold talks about what we can collectively do to protect workers and the travelling public across the transport network.

“However, it’s crucial Shapps opens out these talks out to include industry wide stakeholders all of whom are deeply troubled at the impact the virus might have on transport and travel.

“I have no doubt all employers, train companies, Network Rail, and a whole range of other stakeholders will rightly feel they must be part of any such briefings.

“Now is the time for us all to pull together, as unions, workers, employers and Government.

“In his response to our letter Shapps said ‘Ministerial colleagues and I look forward to engaging with Trade Unions on Covid-19', the same courtesy must now be afforded to others by way of widening these talks.”

The text of the joint letter is as follows:

‘12th March 2020

Dear Mr Shapps,

We are writing jointly as representatives of workers in the transport industry to implore you to break your silence and give leadership on measures that public transport can take to tackle coronavirus. Between us we represent hundreds of thousands of transport workers who are responsible for keeping Britain moving.

Transport workers are receiving different advice from different companies – and in some cases even within the same company – about what actions to take in the event of suspected or actual illness.

There is concern of over ‘managing attendance’ procedures and how they are being applied. Clearly, if someone is told to self-isolate they should not then be penalised by their employer for doing so in the interest of public health, yet this is currently the case in the rail and bus industries.

Our privatised transport system is not conducive to swift and coordinated responses. There is apparently no consistency across the public transport network in how transport workers will be treated if they fall ill. Companies where employees work side by side with transport workers employed by another company are being treated differently, leading to confusion and frustration.

In terms of passenger and employee safety, we applaud the first steps taken by Transport for London to enhance cleaning and disinfectant. But there is apparently no coordination, oversight or central guidance from government.

Public transport could play a major role in combatting the spread of coronavirus, but we urgently need a coordinated response across the network and get some common guidance and protections in place.

We look forward to your speedy response.

Yours sincerely,

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary, Unite

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, Aslef

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