Transport unions issue plea to commuters to stay off the Tube

Transport unions have issued an urgent plea to commuters to stay off the Tube.

Speaking after Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested there should be more, not fewer, trains running, ASLEF organiser Finn Brennan said“We don’t need more trains on London Underground, we need fewer passengers. As MPs vote to leave their own place of work today, it is disgraceful that the government puts key workers’ lives at risk by refusing to close other non-essential workplaces.’”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The idea that the Tube can run with a normal service level is utter nonsense. Thirty per cent of Underground staff are either off sick as a result of COVID-19 or in self-isolation.

“Also, to have a normal service suggests to the public that it’s business as normal. Plus the cuts to staff numbers implemented by our current Prime Minster as Mayor of London has left no effective cover for those off sick.

“Our members need the space to carry out their duties on the Tube, making sure services for key workers are able to run smoothly and safely. Matt Hancock must stop playing petty blame games and if he’s unsure about what needs to happen on the Tube I’d be happy to set him straight, by phone.

“In all seriousness it looks as though the Tories are prepared to defend the interests of building companies who’ve made huge donations to their coffers, rather than protect the lives of ordinary Londoners and Tube staff.

“The government must ban working on all building sites now unless the work is vital to protect health and safety – and make sure these workers are given the financial package they need.

“As I have said, ministers must come forward today with measures guaranteeing the income of workers in the gig economy, the self-employed and freelancers. That will go a long way to reducing the numbers who feel they have no choice but to travel to work on public transport in the capital and beyond.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “At a time when we are trying to encourage people to stay away from the Tube so we can concentrate on moving essential workers the government call ‎to reinstate a full service is grossly irresponsible as it suggests it’s business as usual. That flies in the face of everything they have said about staying at home.

“The real problem is this government’s refusal to give any wage support to casualised workers who will receive no income if they don’t travel and go to work. We need to put the nation’s health first – close the building sites and shut down the rogue employers and give the same wage support to casual workers as those on PAYE – run a free, stripped-back railway for essential staff so that our vital health, retail and other key workers can travel free from cost and fear of contamination on crowded trains.

“The government are also ignoring the fact that large numbers of LU staff are self isolating and those left on the job feel dangerously vulnerable. We would call on the government to withdraw their “business as usual” lines and work with the tube unions and the Mayor to protect health, safety, livelihoods and travel services for essential workers.”

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