'Break your silence' call

Transport union leaders call on Grant Shapps to show leadership amid coronavirus outbreak

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As the coronavirus  continues to spread in the UK, the government is expected on Thursday (March 12) to announce that it is moving to the ‘delay’ phase of its plans to slow the transmission of the virus, with ‘social distancing’ measures likely. Leaders of transport unions, including Unite, today wrote to transport secretary Grant Shapps to demand leadership amid the outbreak. The letter is published in full below:


Dear Mr Shapps:


We are writing jointly as representatives of workers in the transport industry to implore you to break your silence and give leadership on measures that public transport can take to tackle coronavirus. Between us we represent hundreds of thousands of transport workers who are responsible for keeping Britain moving.


Transport workers are receiving different advice from different companies – and in some cases even within the same company – about what actions to take in the event of suspected or actual illness.


There is concern of over ‘managing attendance’ procedures and how they are being applied. Clearly, if someone is told to self-isolate they should not then be penalised by their employer for doing so in the interest of public health, yet this is currently the case in the rail and bus industries.

Our privatised transport system is not conducive to swift and coordinated responses. There is apparently no consistency across the public transport network in how transport workers will be treated if they fall ill. Companies where employees work side by side with transport workers employed by another company are being treated differently, leading to confusion and frustration.


In terms of passenger and employee safety, we applaud the first steps taken by Transport for London to enhance cleaning and disinfectant. But there is apparently no coordination, oversight or central guidance from government.


Public transport could play a major role in combatting the spread of coronavirus, but we urgently need a coordinated response across the network and get some common guidance and protections in place.


We look forward to your speedy response.


Yours sincerely,


Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary, Unite

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, Aslef



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