TSSA National Representatives from across Network Rail (Bands 1-4, Maintenance, Ops, Safety and Equalities) met with the company today to discuss the "Government changes to COVID measures". As the meeting took place prior to any guidance been issued by the Government, we made it quite clear that we would not accept any lifting of, or reduction of existing control measures.
We also made it abundantly clear that we would not be in a position to discuss or agree any changes until the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum (RICF: Rail industry representatives and the Trade Unions) has met and concluded discussions on how the industry should respond to whatever announcements the Government is set to make on Monday this week.
The RICF is meeting on Wednesday morning to hopefully agree National Guidance for duty holders when reviewing controls introduced to mitigate Covid 19 transmission.
TSSA wants to assure all its members that the safety, health and wellbeing of our members, their families, colleagues and the travelling public is paramount in anything and everything we do. Network Rail have been told that regardless of what restrictions the Government lifts, or reduces, they have a legal duty to protect their employees.
Even without the announcement or guidance from RICF, Network Rail are suggesting they would be looking to remove the need to social distance, cease to enforce face coverings and remove one-way systems of movement. Those of you that have had to carry out work at a Network Rail location have had these measures in place to protect you and your colleagues from the virus. The virus has not gone away – but by following these controls, we have been able to reduce the amount of people being affected (do you mean infected?). So why the rush to get rid of measures that appear to be working?
They are keen to lift the restrictions on vehicle occupancy, but mitigating this by saying they would insist windows are kept open on vehicles. Ask yourself what this will be like when you’re ploughing along the motorway in the early hours of the morning when it’s throwing it down with rain?
Likewise, the company seems to be under the impression that our members are chomping at the bit to return to the workplace en masse as soon as they can. The reality is that most of our members are telling us that they are looking to have a sensible mix of working from home and visiting the workplace.
We do not see the urgency for Network Rail to get everyone back into the workplace – there has been a reduction in passenger numbers, but the railway has continued to run throughout the pandemic, despite many of you working from home. Members who do not want to work from home have, in the main, been allowed to return to their workplaces – so again why the sudden urgency to change what is in place?
Remember TSSA have registered a "Failure to Agree" with the company over the failure to conclude consultation on the "Working from Home" policy and the lack of an agreed national framework on agile/hybrid working. We will be meeting the company shortly on this matter.
Many members are rightly concerned about what travelling to work will look like. We pointed out to Network Rail that they need to factor this into their future plans and to remember that the job of Network Rail employees is to operate, not populate the railways!
COVID hasn't gone away - please stay safe!
We are set to meet with the company again on Thursday. Following that meeting we will provide further guidance to our members. In the meantime, we ask you to continue to follow the current COVID control measures – observe social distancing, wear a face covering where required, continue to maintain a high level of hygiene.
Keep the Test and Trace App on at work, unless you are working in an area where phone use is prohibited, your phone is stored in a locker, or you are working behind a protective screen and follow all other control measures that are in place to keep you and those around as safe and healthy as possible.
Strengthen your voice on matters that concern you
The rail industry is facing some of the most significant changes in its history. Make sure you and your colleagues have a voice on these changes and in shaping the future of Britain's railways. If you know anyone who is yet to join TSSA, please encourage them to do so.