Unions reject claims rail and tube staff part of scheme to skip self-isolation | Coronavirus

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Unions have lashed out at the government for “sowing chaos and confusion” by claiming that rail and tube staff are taking part in a pilot scheme cited by ministers as the reason why Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson could avoid self-isolation.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the claims made on Sunday morning that a scheme existed that could allow rail staff to continue to work despite test-and-trace alerts were “totally untrue”.

Transport for London also denied claims made by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, on Sunday that it was part of a pilot scheme.

An RMT spokesperson said workers had been asking how they could join a scheme that did not exist at a time when shortages due to the “pingdemic” have seen services cut due to lack of staff. The Metropolitan line into London was closed on Saturday as signallers were forced to self-isolate.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “We were consulted last year on a limited pilot at specific locations for critical signalling operations. This was never developed into a general agreement for Network Rail, TfL, the wider rail sector or for transport in general. For the government to claim there is an agreed scheme or system is totally untrue.

“The government has once again demonstrated its incompetence with the wholly bogus statements it has made today. The consequences of those actions will be serious.”

TfL said in a statement: “The government has indicated that we could be part of a trial whereby daily tests would replace the need for self-isolation. We are still waiting for formal notification from them that we are part of this trial.”

The shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, said: “The reality is, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been caught red-handed trying to get round the rules they expect everyone else to follow.

“They must now apologise for their contempt for the British public and for needlessly dragging hard-working transport workers into their farcical cover-up.”

The chancellor and prime minister’s spokesman both quickly said the pair would self-isolate after the backlash on Sunday. Sunak tweeted: “I’ll be self-isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”

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