Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Union Says TfL Boss Offered Wrong Advice to Staff Over Covid Testing

South African Variant Causes Dispute Over Regulations
Shipping News Feature

UK – A row has broken out between the RMT union and Transport for London (TfL) over the status of staff living within the recently announced high risk areas in which all people are requested to stay at home and be subject to one of the 80,000 or so home tests for Covid-19 which the government are rolling out.

This is in response to the new ‘South African’ variant of the disease, supposedly more transmissible, and meaning in eight areas of the country doorstep tests and mobile test units are backing up the kits being sent out. Several of the areas under the new restrictions are those in which TfL staff are likely to be living including the W7, W13, CR4,N17, ME15, GU21 and EN10 postcodes.

The RMT claims that the Tfl Commissioner Andy Byford issued guidance to workers in postcodes being targeted, stating that if they could not work from home they should come into work as normal. This was the same evening when earlier the Health Secretary Matt Hancock had called on people in these same areas to stay at home and await the surge testing aimed at bringing the South African variant of Covid-19 to heel. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash wrote to Mr Byford, saying:

“Your position, in clear contradiction of the government’s statement, has understandably caused mass dismay and anxiety among London Underground and TfL members and we are dealing with the consequences of that now. You appear to be calling people to come to work who have just been urged by the government to stay at home, putting themselves, their families, communities and work colleagues at risk in the process.

“This is totally unacceptable. You need to take back control of this situation rapidly. I am asking that you write to all TfL staff now amending this guidance to reflect the government’s position before this situation escalates any further.”

We spoke to Tfl who issued the following statement via a spokesperson:

“We know that some of our colleagues who live or work where the Government has introduced additional testing may be concerned, so we would like to reassure them that we are closely following PHE and Government advice. The Government advice that people who are unable to work from home can continue to go to work as normal remains unchanged and everyone who can work from home should do so, regardless of where they live.

”We continue to follow our robust cleaning regime and social distancing measures to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace or on public transport and ensure that the public transport network is available and is safe for those who need to use it.”

So it appears, yet again, that contradictory advice has been given to the same group of citizens. TfL insists it has communicated regularly with its trade unions to keep them updated on all potential changes to the network throughout the coronavirus pandemic and emphasised that every person over 16 living in the affected areas is strongly encouraged to take a Covid test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Mobile testing units (MTUs) are being deployed offering PCR testing to people without symptoms who have to leave their home for work or essential reasons, with local authorities encouraging people to get tested in the area by providing additional home test kits.