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‘Terrified’ Euston Station workers call for help after death of colleague

Staff call on government and Labour leader Keir Starmer to intervene after boss orders them to continue travelling into work

“HEARTBROKEN” Euston Station workers whose work is non-essential called on the government today to intervene after the death of a colleague.

The staff said their employer has ordered over 100 of them to come into work.

Transport union TSSA’s Euston Branch members wrote to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer — who is also the station’s constituency MP — to also ask him for help.

They note the government says we are now at the peak of the coronavirus crisis in Britain.

The workers said that they are “terrified” to still be at work and were heartbroken after their colleague died of Covid-19 on Sunday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he does not expect non-essential staff to be at work during the pandemic during a transport select committee meeting in March.

But, in a letter to Mr Starmer seen by the Star today, the workers said that employer Avanti West Coast is “continuing to send in non-essential workers.”

The workers said: “Our members in the first class lounge and pre boarding teams were initially sent home because there was no work to do.

“They were brought back in last month for ‘fairness’ to other staff. They join the floorwalking team on a rotation.

“We now have over 100 staff in non-operational (gateline, ticket office, floorwalking, first class lounge and pre boarding) coming in and out of London – sometimes from great distances – for non-operational roles.

“None of these staff contribute to the physical running of the trains. Yet they have been given a choice to come in for their rostered shift – or take annual or unpaid leave in order to stay at home.”

One member reported to a rep that some workers spent their seven-hour shift doing “absolutely nothing.”

Some workers cannot afford to take unpaid leave and will run out of annual leave soon – particularly those on part-time contracts, a member said.

The member, who did not want to be named, also told the Star: “London has been classed as the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK.

“We cannot understand why, during a time when the company are not seeking profit due to temporary nationalisation, we have revenue teams checking tickets at the gate lines and ticket office staff selling tickets to NHS and other essential workers.

“Avanti have a responsibility to the public to decrease the number of people coming in to work.”

The member said that the staff who are attending work “unnecessarily” are some of those often seen in photos of packed trains, and are being forced to put themselves and others at risk because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave.

They added: “We have single mothers, carers and other vulnerable members who are using up their annual leave so they don’t have to put themselves at risk for the sake of selling a handful of tickets. 

“We see other train operating companies acting much more responsibly in sending non essential staff home weeks ago. 

“When things return to normal, those companies can be assured they did what they could to protect their staff. 

“Avanti West Coast will need to live with the fact that when we return to normality at Euston, there will be at least one of us missing from the line.”

The worker urged the Department for Transport to “step in and make sure that our non essential staff are sent home.”

A spokesperson for Avanti said: “Our people are doing an incredible job keeping the railways running so key workers can get to their jobs. Their safety and that of our customers is absolutely paramount and we are following the latest guidance from government.

“We have been in contact with the trade unions over this issue and have provided support to all our people, including those on the front line, throughout this period.”

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