|Volume 50 Number 24, June 27, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Right from the start, workers across the country have been demanding that essential transport workers, such as lorry drivers and workers on public transport, should be recognised as front-line workers who have their dignity and their rights, and have had to fight against been put in untenable situations.
In this context, a proposal for a permanent memorial to transport workers who have died from Covid-19 has been gaining widespread momentum and support.
Appearing before the Transport Committee, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that the 54 transport workers who died of Covid-19 should be recognised and suggested it would be "appropriate" to have a memorial sited at Victoria Station, where Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) member Belly Mujinga worked.
Belly was a Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) ticket office clerk. She had an existing respiratory condition which meant her employer should have kept her out of harm's way. Tragically she was redeployed to the concourse rather than being sent home, where she could have been shielded from the virus. A "Justice for Belly Mujinga" petition has now reached the two million signatures mark.
Speaking in support of a memorial for transport workers, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Our union fully welcomes this proposal from Grant Shapps and is willing to work with him to make sure it happens. It is a tragedy that we have lost transport workers during this health emergency.
"As Shapps himself has said, these are the people who have put themselves on the front line so our NHS workers can get to their jobs, and the wider population has food and essential supplies. They are true heroes and I have no doubt the country will wish to properly remember those we have lost fighting this terrible virus.
"In the meantime, we must continue to make sure every single transport worker has the proper protective equipment needed to go about their vital work. Government must also be clear the only safe way to operate public transport at the present time is by maintaining the two-metre social distancing rule.
"Let us protect the living while we do the right thing in remembering the dead."