politics

Public transport workers should be vaccine priority ‘after Covid deaths double in two months’ – RMT Union


U

nion bosses are demanding transport workers are classified as a priority group for the coronavirus vaccine amid claims of a “surge” in deaths among rail and other staff.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said information from its members suggested deaths and illnesses due to coronavirus among rail workers have at least doubled since November.

The union is calling for a nationwide overhaul of risk assessments and for transport workers to be classed as a priority group to receive the vaccination, to protect lives and ensure the railways can continue to transport essential goods and workers.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “A more infectious and now it seems more deadly variant of the Covid-19 virus plus an increase in passengers numbers is a lethal cocktail threatening rail workers, with deaths and illness doubling since November.

“But instead of responding to our call for a urgent national review of all risk assessments we are being told it’s business as usual – this is as callous as it is complacent.

“We are advising our members of their right to stop working if their safety is threatened and I will be seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps asking that he intervenes to take speedy action to address the new threat and also to prioritise transport workers for the vaccine.

“Both steps are necessary not only to save lives but also to protect the resilience of the transport network.”

A Government spokeswoman said the safety of transport staff was “paramount” and praised the “tireless efforts” of key workers.

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A Transport for London (TfL) London Bus driver, wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19

/ AFP via Getty Images )

She said: “Passengers should only be travelling if it is absolutely essential and we have issued comprehensive guidance on how to address the risks of coronavirus across the sector, with huge efforts made by rail operators to make workplaces Covid secure.

“We are taking independent expert advice on the prioritisation of the vaccine from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which has made clear that the immediate priority must be to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, and healthcare staff on the front line.”

It came as new figures suggest men working as security guards, taxi drivers and chefs are among the groups at highest risk of dying from coronavirus,

The highest Covid death rates in 2020 were recorded among plant workers, followed by security guards and catering staff, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis.

Plant workers suffered a rate of 143.2 deaths per 100,000 men, compared with 31.4 per 100,000 among the same age and gender group across the wider population.

For security guards and related occupations, the figure stood at 100.7 deaths per 100,000 males.

Additional reporting by PA Media



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