Labour minister urges operator forum before restrictions eased

Ministers must hold a forum with transport operators before any lockdown restrictions are eased to ensure the safety of workers, Labour has said, after new figures revealed high numbers of Covid deaths in the sector.

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon has written to Grant Shapps asking for a virtual roundtable after ONS data revealed taxi drivers (101 deaths per 100,000 males) and bus and coach drivers (83 deaths per 100,000 males) had recorded some of the highest death rates of any occupation.

The letter urges clarity from Government around the guidance given to transport operators. It reads: “There is a mix of overlapping, and at times contradictory, scientific advice and guidance in circulation for essential workers.

“The job of Government should surely be to cut through that noise and give those that need it clear, unified and constant guidance and direction. The fact that different operators have diverging views on the best approach is confusing matters further.

“It’s clear that ahead of our frontline workers receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, we need a national operator’s forum with Government, transport operators and unions with driver and other workers’ representatives. This would help in understanding the frontline issues, varying approaches, and practical solutions to getting the Covid case rate and death rate down.”

The letter also calls for clearer guidance for all transport operators – including those in the taxi industry that consider themselves a platform rather than employer – around PPE, barriers, cleaning routines and social distancing.

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