A woman railway worker, working as a train guard in Finland speaks out:
These are difficult times for railway workers who are on the frontline and in constant contact with passengers:
“It’s scary for us all to work at the moment in these dirty trains with all the bacteria running around. Drivers are scared to touch the buttons and the driving table. We can’t go to visit them anymore. Train guards are scared to get COVID-19 from passengers or give it to them”. “I have kids and I’m nervous. Thank God my kids and husband aren’t in the big risk group”.
She emphasises that her colleagues and herself are scared and that despite the 70% decrease in passengers, trains are running normally. Indeed, the government has informed railway workers that they are critical for the country to work properly.
When asked what her employer is doing to protect employees, she replies that they’ve been given gloves and hand disinfectant, however, despite their demands for facemasks; employers have refused, claiming that it’s too expensive. “Our employer says that they’re cleaning trains more often now, but that’s simply not true”. Management has also told them to not go near passengers with suitcases (which would imply that they’ve recently travelled) or who appear to be sick. Indeed, she recounts that recently she was working on a train servicing the airport, and sick people, as well as people who should have clearly been quarantined, were on the train even though it wasn’t allowed. However, steps have been taken, and now the airport’s train station is closed.
She adds that her employer gave employees a small online training which was more of an explanation on what to do and that they were informed that if they’re certain that a passenger is infected, they have been given a number to dial where a doctor will instruct them on what to do. They have been told to stay away from sick passengers, though she mentions that they can give them a napkin if they are coughing and that they must ask people who are in the vicinity of the infected person to move seats.
On access to facilities, she mentions that she still has access to toilets every 4 hours which are clean and that otherwise, she needs to use public toilets which are only semi-clean. She adds that her shift is between 7-14 hours and that a normal shift usually lasts 11 hours.
When asked if railway workers will be confronted with job losses, she replies with a “Yes” and explains that all employees must stay home maximum 90 days this year, but that their union will pay their salaries during this period.
She concludes by informing us that her employer does pay sick leave, but that if employees request time off to stay home to protect themselves or care for their loved ones, they will not receive any pay. She embellishes by adding that some of her colleagues are at risk as they have asthma and breathing problems, but that they will not be paid if they decide to stay home.
If have a story to share, please contact:
Begüm Boynukalin, European Transport Workers’ Federation
+32 478 79 40 53
Zala Turšič, European Transport Workers’ Federation
+32 478 79 41 12