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Face masks should be compulsory for commuters as Ireland exits lockdown, transport union says

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A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

REUTERS

A woman wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop which displays a message of 'Thank you to Ireland's healthcare workers' in Dublin. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

FACE masks should be compulsory for public transport passengers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown, a major union has warned.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union has also called for temperature testing for frontline transport workers when restrictions are lifted after May 18.

It said those with high temperatures should be sent home without losing pay while they wait for test results.

In a letter to the National Transport Authority, the union outlined measures it said were necessary to facilitate the continuation of public transport through the phased easing of the lockdown.

The letter from general secretary Dermot O’Leary to the NRA’s chief executive Anne Graham sent last Friday said there should be compulsory wearing of face masks for all commuters.

He said this was “to ensure maximum protection of frontline staff and enhance customer confidence”.

Mr O’Leary said all frontline transport workers that interact with commuters should have their temperature checked as they arrive for work using a laser thermometer. Workers who register a high temperature would then be provided with immediate assistance to access a Covid-19 test.

He said if a worker tests positive they should receive agreed sick pay and contractor Go-Ahead Ireland should make similar payments.

“Whilst some elements of society will be able to cope with the relaxation of restrictions, public transport will encounter significant difficulties, not least due to the constraints associated with fleet capacity,” he said.

The union leader said the fact that other countries are at different stages with easing measures is causing concern for frontline public transport staff that serve our airports.

He called for special vetting personnel to ensure potential virus carriers are not travelling on services to and from airports.

“The foregoing measures will ensure that frontline transport workers will continue to have confidence towards providing vital public transport services as we, as a country, attempt to reboot the economy,” he said.

Mr O’Leary called for the continuation of disinfecting and cleaning regimes and implementation of social distancing guidelines across the CIE companies and at contractor Go-Ahead Ireland.

He asked that automatic ‘no touch’ gel dispenser units be provided in all “service access” locations and said Monday to Friday schedules should be immediately reintroduced to increase capacity.

Extra buses and trains should be made available and signs provided to advertise this, he added.

Mr O’Leary called for a major consultative process with all public transport stakeholders before the lockdown restrictions are lifted after May 18.

Online Editors