Plan to treat virus-related absence as disciplinary put on hold
Transport for London (TfL) has shelved its ‘shocking’ plan to treat tube staff taking absence for coronavirus infection – despite a new wave of infections building rapidly across the country, driven by new variants – as a disciplinary matter.
Finn Brennan, rail union ASLEF’s district organiser for the London Underground, tweeted news of the ‘shocking’ plan, scheduled to kick in from 19 July – and it went viral, with thousands of shares on social media platform Twitter:
Brennan went on to condemn the ‘complete contempt for frontline staff from senior managers who have the luxury of working from home’:
Then this morning, Brennan accused TfL of ‘doubling down on their disgraceful plan’ – by telling staff to turn off the COVID contact tracing app – and warned that an announcement on industrial action would soon follow:
Less than four hours later, the plan had been abandoned, or at least put on hold indefinitely.
Skwawkbox contacted TfL for comment on its plan this afternoon and during a follow-up call a TfL press spokesperson said that the plan was no longer in play and that the unions had been informed at around 2pm.
Dismissal for COVID safety
However, the spokesperson also confirmed that the original plan had included the possibility of dismissal for staff that TfL felt were taking too much time off for COVID-related reasons.
The plan was to revert back to our pre-COVID absence policy where if there’s a lot of absence it can be referred to a manager. Dismissal is an option, but it’s a last-resort option. But in light of our discussions with the unions yesterday, we’re not going to go ahead with the proposal to go back to that, so we’re going to be sticking with our absence policy as it is currently.
TfL advised that under current rules, now to be extended, longer absences for self-isolation and other COVID-related reasons would not result in a referral to management.
A swift victory for the unions and their supporters who helped amplify their outrage at TfL’s plan to punish workers for absence for infection or contact that they are routinely and inevitably exposed to in the course of their duties.
At least 69 TfL workers had died of coronavirus by February this year, many of them from ethnic minorities.
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