Transport trade unions are demanding that the government take urgent action after figures published today by the Office for National Statistics show that male bus and taxi drivers were amongst the occupations with a raised rate of death involving COVID-19. The ONS analysis reveals:
“Among men, a number of other specific occupations were found to have raised rates of death involving COVID-19, including: taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4 deaths per 100,000); bus and coach drivers (26.4 deaths per 100,000).”
According to the RMT, the Government has failed to convene a national Coronavirus safety forum with unions and employers to establish safe working practices, despite multiple requests for it to do so since the onset of COVID-19 – and today’s analysis shows the price for this failing.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“These figures are a sobering reminder that frontline bus and taxi workers across the country are being put at risk by the Government’s failure to ensure that workers in these sectors are adequately protected from COVID-19.
“For example, despite the high rate of deaths in the bus industry, the Government still has not convened a Coronavirus safety forum for this sector, months into lockdown. After the PM’s ambiguous statement last night, bus workers across the country will now be anxious that they will be put at risk by any increase in passenger numbers, before rigorous safety measures are implemented.
“RMT’s position on this is unequivocal – we will not allow our bus and taxi members to be put at risk and are calling on the government to take urgent action to protect these key workers.”
RMT is calling for the protection of workers in these sectors, and for the convening of a National Coronavirus Safety Summit to agree a national plan to protect workers and passengers in the sector.
Meanwhile, Unite the Union, Assistant General Secretary, Diana Holland said: “These figures are alarming and it is imperative that we learn all the lessons possible now and when this pandemic is over that there is a full public inquiry into these deaths.
“We must never forget this is not about statistics, but each and every death is an individual tragedy where a loved one has died.
“While lessons need to be learned for the future, it is immediately imperative that all workplaces examine these figures and urgently revisit how more effective measures can be taken to protect workers who have remained in work or who are returning to the workplace. Thorough risk assessments are vital and government needs to make sure they happen.
“This is only an early snapshot of this dreadful disease but it is clear that lower paid workers often from a BAME background have been at the greatest risk of dying during the pandemic.
“An inquiry is needed to understand if measures such as the lockdown was introduced too late and whether frontline workers were able to effectively socially distance at work, if effective cleaning regimes were in place and if workers were provided with the necessary PPE to properly protect them.”
The Health & Safety Executive have said:
“By consulting and involving people in steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:
- explain the changes you are planning to work safely
- make sure changes will work and hear their ideas
- continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak
You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and the government expects all employers with over 50 workers to do so).”