The impact of Covid-19 on Black workers in transport

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2021 Virtual Special Water, Enviroment & Transport Conference
8 April 2021

�We�re all in this together� has become a rallying cry during the coronavirus pandemic. While it is true that COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but universal. Evidence to date suggests that Black workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 than white workers.

Although the current strain of the coronavirus is one that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices.

We are pleased that UNISON has provided guidance and encouraged Black members about the vaccination programme and signposting them to the information on the UNISON Covid-19 website pages.

There are three main groups of workers in the COVID-19 economy: those who have lost their jobs and face economic insecurity, those who are classified as essential workers and face health insecurity as a result, and those who are able to continue working from the safety of their homes. Black workers are disproportionately found among the essential workers in the economy today continuing to go to their workplaces, risking their health and that of their families because they are unable to sustain adequate social distance from their co-workers and customers.

Transport worker safety has been a huge concern all through the coronavirus crisis. Bus drivers in London have reported they have been spat at while working. Spitting at transport staff is not only disrespectful but also dangerous when it can spread a deadly virus.

There is clear evidence that more people from Black communities are dying because of coronavirus. Black people working as security guards, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, bus and coach drivers are also among those with the highest increase in all-cause mortality.

The awful death of Belly Mujinga, who was spat at and tragically died of coronavirus, has shocked the country. Although British Transport Police said her assailant did not have coronavirus, she was targeted and assaulted while simply being at work. This is completely unacceptable, and her death is a tragedy for her family, her friends, her colleagues, and for the transport industry.

This conference calls upon the Water, Environment and Transport Service Group Executive to work with all appropriate employers/bodies to get better protection for transport workers and especially Black members who are more vulnerable in this current crisis, and who were, and still are, already exposed to racist behaviour and attacks.