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LONDON’s Tube drivers are being sent home for raising coronavirus safety issues, Aslef said today.
Management have also threatened to stop their pay, said the train drivers’ union, which vowed to fight “industrially and legally, on the picket lines and in the courts” if necessary.
Transport for London (TfL) planned to increase services from 50 to 75 per cent of normal timetables today to cope with an expected increase in passenger numbers following the government’s “back to work” call.
London Underground’s Aslef organiser Finn Brennan said the increase meant changes in the way drivers have to operate, increasing their risk of infection.
“Drivers have been relatively safe because they have been driving to and from their home depots every shift,” he said.
“The increase means they have to take breaks at other depots, with more interaction with other staff and passengers, and they are unable to maintain social distancing.
“They are being asked to go back to the way they were working before the pandemic.”
On Friday, Aslef, which represents 2,500 Tube drivers, advised all its members that they have the right to refuse to work if they felt they were being put at risk.
Mr Brennan said about 30 Tube drivers were sent home by managers today.
“What sickens me is that right through this pandemic, public-transport drivers have been described as heroes by this government. But as soon as we raise health and safety issues, we are ‘disruptive trade unionists’,” he said.
“The government is insisting that Transport for London maximises the service it operates regardless of the implications for driver safety.
"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.
“Aslef does not believe that London Underground has fulfilled the requirements for genuine consultation with staff and this trade union.
“We want to see services increased, but this has to be done in a way that is safe for passengers and safe for staff.”
Nick Dent, director of line operations for London Underground, said: “The safety of our staff and customers is the most important thing to us as we carefully work towards a return to the level of service on the Tube closer to normal, with 75 per cent of services running this morning.
"We would never force a member of staff to work if they Were concerned about safety. If they are not reassured by the evidence we offer describing the extensive safety measures we’ve introduced, we provide them with a detailed pack of written information and ask them to return when they are satisfied. We are always available to clarify any points which continue to be a cause for concern.
“We have installed screens and social-distancing signage in depots and service control centres, and have implemented one-way systems to make social distancing easier. Hand sanitiser and masks have also been provided to staff to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible in addition to the continued regular rigorous cleaning of the Tube. All of these changes have been fully risk assessed and comply with all PHE and government."
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