Transport workers are highly exposed to risk in the Covid-19 pandemic due to working in buildings or vehicles where there is a huge daily turnover of people. Many transport and allied workers are also under-paid and deprived of adequate sick-pay and self-isolation pay, making it impossible for them to quarantine if they need to.
At last count, at least 33 staff have lost their lives, including 29 bus drivers. Transport workers suffer from a lack of PPE and are also disproportionately impacted by the government’s “Hostile Environment”, which instigates discriminatory charges and checks of residency status on migrant service users.
Factors that are already perilous to transport workers, such as harassment and abuse, have also become more dangerous: ticket office worker Belly Mujinga died earlier this month of suspected Covid-19 having fallen ill after being abused and spat at by a man infected with the virus.
Bus drivers: safety over penny-pinching
London bus drivers have been among the worst-hit of any workers in the pandemic, suffering dozens of deaths.
Drivers won a victory in April when the front doors of London buses were finally closed, leaving passengers to get on . That this took so long reflected the worry of some managers that the new system would make it easier for customers to avoid fares: a fear that apparently trumped concern for drivers’ safety.
These safety measures need to be supplemented with others – such as PPE for drivers, and a sealed-off partition between drivers and passengers – and all safety measures should be implemented in buses up and down the country.
Rail workers demand safety for passengers and staff
Railway workers’ union the RMT is demanding that the introduction of increased rail services be offset with enhanced safety measures, such as distribution of free compulsory masks to all passengers (a measure that has been introduced in other European countries), and compulsory 2-metre distancing between passengers.
The latter implies keeping passenger volume down below normal levels, which can only be done with continued lockdown and economic support in place to allow workers to stay home.
Keep the Lockdown
The biggest danger to transport workers is that their workplaces will once again be dangerously over-full with people, some of them infected with coronavirus, because of a premature reopening of businesses, schools and venues. As well as supporting specific calls for safety measures for transport workers, we must also stick to the demand to #KeepTheLockdown until adequate measures are in place to prevent a devastating resurgence of the virus.