Tube drivers told they can refuse to work if they feel their safety is at risk

  • london
  • May 16, 2020
  • Comments Off on Tube drivers told they can refuse to work if they feel their safety is at risk

A union has told London Underground drivers they have the right to refuse to work if they believe they are at risk of serious danger during the coronavirus crisis.

Trade union for train drivers Aslef said it wanted to see Tube services increase, but only in a way that was safe for staff and passengers.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Underground, said: ‘Despite our objections, London Underground has insisted that, from next week, train drivers revert to working as they did before the Covid-19 crisis.

‘They are being told that they can no longer continue to work in the safer way that they have been working over the last six weeks.

‘This is because the government is insisting that Transport for London (TfL) maximises the service it operates, regardless of the implications for driver safety.

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‘Forty two TfL workers have already lost their lives to this dreadful disease. The government appears to regard them as nothing more than collateral damage.

‘Until now Underground train services have been operated by drivers working to and from depots so that all unnecessary contact with other individuals and passengers is restricted.

‘This has now been stopped, directly putting the safety of tube train drivers at risk.’

Mr Brennan said Aslef did not believe that London Underground has fulfilled the requirements for genuine consultation with staff and the union.

He added: ‘We want to see services increased, but this has to be done in a way that is safe for passengers and safe for staff.

‘Consequently, we have advised our members of their statutory right to refuse to work in circumstances where they are at risk of serious and imminent danger.

‘Tube drivers have risked their own safety and that of their families to keep services moving for essential workers over the last six weeks.

‘Now they are being asked to take unacceptable and unnecessary risks. They are frightened for themselves and frightened for their families.’

When outlining its plans as some Londoners attempted to go back to work earlier this week, TfL said it aims to increase service levels on the tube to 70%.

A spokesperson said: ‘The plan will require significant changes to the way in which people travel in London.

‘TfL has been able to operate up to 60% of tube services and more than 80% of bus services during the crisis to support essential journeys.

‘This is while managing the impact of the virus on the transport workforce with staff ill, shielding or self-isolating. 

‘In keeping with plans on the national rail network, TfL is working to safely and gradually build up service levels to where they were before the pandemic and will return the number of buses and trains running to as close to 100% as soon as possible.

‘TfL is working closely with staff and the trade unions with the intention of, by 18 May, increasing service levels to around 85% on the bus network, at least 70% on the tube and London Overground (in line with national rail services), 80% on the DLR and an increased service on London Trams and TfL Rail.

‘London Underground is aiming to restore the Circle Line and to reopen some of the 37 stations that have been closed for several weeks.

‘However, some stations will stay closed for now so that staff can be deployed to help manage any congestion at busier stations. Some stations with lift-only access may need to remain closed as social distancing is not possible.

‘However, as is the case with national rail services, this does not mean a return to the transport network that existed before the crisis.

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‘The national requirement to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible means that TfL will only be able to carry around 13 to 15% of the normal number of passengers on the tube and bus networks even when 100% of services are operating once again over time.’

It comes as London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced major changes to TfL services yesterday following a £1.6 billion bailout deal from the government.

The bailout consists of a £1.1 billion grant and a £505 million loan, because the company’s income from fares has dropped by 90% during lockdown.

A teaching union also said yesterday that teachers can legally refuse to return to work when schools reopen due to concerns over risks to their health.

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