On the 18th March 2020 with the further announcements from the UK Government the RMT sent the following letter to London Underground highlighting their concerns.
RE: RMT Service Control Covid-19 Response
With the on-going escalation of the Covid-19 situation throughout the UK and London being ahead of the rest of the country with the spread of the outbreak we have critical concerns for our members and colleagues across Service Control.
In this time of need for the nation the importance of Service Control will become the most essential gear in the underground that full strategic support needs to be provided to. We fully support keeping the essential veins of London moving on the mutual basis that the management will back and support the staff.
To ensure we are openly talking to jointly address these concerns we propose a weekly or more regular Service Control Covid-19 conference as needed between LU and RMT and any other trade unions that would like to join. This will not circumnavigate, replace or take out of the working the normal agreed machinery, however in this rapidly developing situation we need to be able to talk as and when required without delay to address concerns.
RMT Service Control propose three main workflows for this conference:
1. Protection of Service Control Staff from Covid-19
2. Workload for Service Control Staff during Covid-19
3. Supporting and caring for Service Control Staff affected by Covid-19
We have been speaking to our members on a regular basis throughout this and already have a number of concerns that this conference can address. We want to emphasise the following demands of RMT Service Control during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Protection of Service Control Staff from Covid-19
1. Immediate isolation of any workplace with someone who has been symptomatic and all staff removed to self-isolation and tested. Workplace deep cleaned and sanitised prior to re-opening.
2. Robust protection of Service Control locations from non-essential staff who may transmit Covid-19 with access restricted to essential operational staff & cleaners only. Increased security, signage and access restrictions strictly enforced.
3. Fully stocked and working hand sanitisation stations at all entry/exit points from Service Control locations, including Control Rooms, Signal Cabins, DRM Depots, NIRM Depots, LUCC.
4. Fully stocked and access for all Service Control staff to gloves, anti-bacterial gels & soaps.
5. Regular and high standard anti-bacterial cleaning regime of all work surfaces, including, desks, radios, telephones, keypads, mouses, computers, timetable books at all Control Rooms, Signal Cabins, DRM Depots, NIRM Depots, LUCC to ensure every workstation is cleaned prior to any handover.
6. Provide full bacterial protection equipment for all Service Control staff that have to go out and about on the network and minimise any time out of depots or control centres to emergencies only.
7. Review staff booking on processes to minimise cross contamination including the moving or removing of booking on points as required and the introduction of remote booking on.
8. Facilities and funds provided for food delivery to control centre to minimise risk of staff exiting control centres or depots during breaks using contactless delivery suppliers.
9. Facilities and funds provided for Service Control Staff to drive to work or have special taxi’s to minimise risk of catching Covid-19 on public transport.
Workload for Service Control Staff during Covid-19
1. Daily update of staff number available in Service Control.
2. Immediately suspend night tube to reduce un-necessary workload.
3. Reduce working rosters to essential traffic times only with an early closure to deliver a core emergency service required for essential workers and to minimise the wear and tear of equipment with the increased un-availability of maintenance staff.
4. Implement a managed reduced service that can be maintained while projected isolations and sickness absence continues which is delivered by timetables and scheduling and not via last minute service control as an emergency timetable.
5. Consult with each lines operational staff, Controllers, Signallers, Train Managers on what realistic and achievable service can be delivered with current numbers, not just using an off the shelf timetable which is un-achievable.
6. Ensure Service Control Centres and staff are left to do their jobs with minimal outside interference from the SOO or managers with the understanding staff are doing their best and don’t require outside criticism in a time of increased pressures.
7. Honestly and without pressure or politics let lines advertise their true reduced service status being consistent and clear to our essential users relying on us so they can plan around it.
8. Protect Service Control members from disciplinary action from mistakes that happen during this outbreak due to increased fatigue, stress, demands and outside anxiety’s.
9. Manage fatigue in the workplace to prevent burn out from staff stepping up to support Service Control by reducing workload and working hours.
10. Recognise, support and back Service Control Staff who are delivering an essential service to London key workers during this national crisis.
Supporting and caring for Service Control Staff affected by Covid-19
1. Identify vulnerable staff in at risk categories to stay away from the workplace without loss of pay.
2. Identify those living with/caring for vulnerable people to stay away from the workplace without loss of pay.
3. Ensure staff in self isolation are supported and contacted on an agreed basis with the staff member to support them through isolation.
Through-out this unprecedented and ever-changing situation we want to fully engage with London Underground; support London and our members who are doing a critical role in keeping essential workers and services in London moving, people’s lives are relying on us.