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Rmtplatform.org.uk

www.rmtlondoncalling.org.uk/swineflu

To: Mike Strzelecki
Director of Safety, LUL
01 May 2009

“Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5. Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world.All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia” Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan
Dear Mike, This letter is addressed as much to Andy Barr (Network Co-ordinating manager), Howard Collins (COO) and Richard Parry The ABC of Influenza
Swine Flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory This letter has also been prepared as a circular for staff to keep them abreast of latest developments on LUL regarding Influenza A (H1N1) Influenzas are classified into three major genera: A, B As you are aware, the Stations and Revenue Safety Council met and C. Over thousands of years Influenzas B and C have yesterday with Dr. Olivia Carlton invited to update the Council on been domesticated by long circulation in human populations. The Influenza C is a cause of the common cold for instance and B produces a classic winter flu. The meeting ended in a shambles with the Trade Union representatives (RMT/TSSA) adjourning to seek further advice from Influenza A however remains wild and is very their Head Offices. Sadly, management were more pre-occupied with dangerous. It remains primarily among ducks and endeavouring to twist our adjournment into a walk-out (and thus waterfowl but can cross over to humans and other bird threatening to dock our pay) rather than addressing the very serious and mammal species. Although the figures are hard to issues raised. The management Chair of the Council even sought assess domesticated seasonal type A influenza can kill advice from Employee Relations. Paul Tullet from Employee as many as one million people a year. A small increase Relations stated that we were not to adjourn because the matter was in the virulence combined with high incidence could We believe Paul Tullet to be improvident and the management team at best complacent with regard to this serious, imminent and fast It also has an incredible capacity to evolve rapidly creating modified strains requiring new vaccines – this process is called antigenic drift. However, every human The concerns we raised were manifold but can be immediately generation or so, a bird or pig version of Influenza A reduced to two inter-linked issues. Our approach is sensibly will swap genes with a human type of influenza or predicated on the basis that we “hope for the best but prepare for the acquire mutations allowing it to leap between species – worst”. Sadly, LUL‟s response seems to be “bury your head in the this process is called antigenic shift and signals the imminence of a pandemic. Also, sometimes through a co-infection of a host cell by two different subtypes of 1) Emergency Preparedness Plans: We were told that LUL
influenza can result in a reassortment virus – a hybrid have plans ready to be signed off. In other words, a week on having gene segments from different parents. Influenza from the outbreak in Mexico and the spread of influenza A A is what Mike Davis calls an “extraordinary shape- H1N1 (laboratory confirmed) to 9 countries (including the UK) and the WHO levels increasing from 3 to 4 and then on 29 April the Dr Margaret Chan (WHO Director General) Both the 1957 and 1968 flu pandemics are believed to declaring level 5 (imminent), LUL have failed to prepare a have originated from the mixing of bird and human Plan let alone consult elected safety representatives. We were eventually offered a TfL plan (old) and Briefing Note. The The Influenza A subtypes are classified by HxNy. The H TfL Briefing note astonishingly states: “TfL has well developed and stands for hemagglutinin and is the molecular key that tested contingency plans that will keep the transport system operating influenza uses to „unlock and enter‟ host cells while the in the event of a major outbreak”. Why would we want a „Plan‟ to N stands for Neuraminidase which allows the virus spread the virus in the event of an “outbreak”? „escape‟ from a dying host. As Davis puts it „H is the In the event of a pandemic the tube is a particularly unique institution burglar and N is the escape artist‟. There are many given the sheer number of passengers we transport; the close subtypes and swine flu is of the H1N1 subtype. But proximity in which passengers and staff interact (take a trip during there are other subtypes H1N2, H3N1 or H5N1 peak hours) and the extent of the network covering vast areas of the Capital and thus an important medium for the potential to spread the The N in influenza is more vulnerable than the H. This is what the powerful anti viral drugs Relenza (zanamivir) and Tamiflu (oseltamivir) attack. The World Health Organisation, backed by Western It is for this reason we requested (and continue to) a network-wide, all leaders, argues that pandemics can be contained by the companies meeting with the trade unions to discuss our preparations, rapid responses of medical bureaucracies. The idea is plans and implementation in the event of a full pandemic. Sadly, the that the strain is identified and then dealt with by local response from management is that there will be no consultation on the populations getting enough anti-viral drugs. plans and no meetings will be arranged until a Level 6 (Full Pandemic) is declared. Rather than working together to produce a vaccination This is woefully inadequate if not irresponsible. Clearly lessons have for each new flu strain, which is unprofitable for the not been learnt from 7 July 2005 when our staff were the first to deal pharmaceutical companies because many new flu strains with the emergencies declared that day but the last to find out what don‟t reach pandemic level, governments tend to rely on Poor communications was highlighted as a particular concern and Concentrated poverty is one of the most important issues Tim O‟Toole at the time stated “The big lesson for us is to invest in in what happens to a flu outbreak – how it is spread and your staff, rely on them; invest in technology but do not rely on it”. who it hits. Twenty million or more of the deaths in the Now, whether through some collective managerial amnesia or 1918-19 flu outbreak were in poorest parts of India. directive from the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms, you are insisting That‟s why it is unsurprising at this moment that deaths Any Emergency Preparedness Plan should incorporate (as required by However, not only in the poorer countries but also the the Civil Contingencies Act 2004) an integrated approach that richest the poor are hit hardest. In the most sophisticated comprises of related activities. Emergency Preparedness: anticipation, analysis of pandemic mortality, a case study of the 1918 assessment, prevention and preparation. Emergency Response and flu found that “the working class and blue collar workers experienced the heaviest death rates.particularly in the inner city, and that An integrated response and recovery relates to multi-agency unemployment was a consistent a predicator of structures and operations and is based on mutual trust and mortality as more conventional epidemiological factors understanding. This is highly unlikely given you are unwilling to such as person per room density” We asked management on many occasions in the course of the Furthermore, a key factor behind new diseases such as meeting yesterday whether you believe staff (and by extension, the the swine flu threat is the growing concentration of travelling public) are expendable. Not once did we receive a response animal production without appropriate regulation or that could equate to a negative i.e. that you do not see staff as biological safeguards. Food production is driven by a expendable and that you will do everything in your power to ensure a handful of giant global corporations. This means large numbers of livestock crammed together to maximise 2) PPE/Cleaners: We were told that surgical gel is on order for
Two thirds of poultry production in Britain already takes hand wash use. This is positive. However, when we asked as place in flocks of over 100,000 birds. In the US today 65 to when we could expect the surgical gel to arrive we were million pigs are concentrated in just 65,000 facilities, told possibly within 48 hours. The incredible slowness of compared to 53 million pigs on more than one million management preparations is really quite astonishing. farms in 1965. In such huge units animals are more We discussed various PPE options such as face masks and gloves and prone to disease, which can rapidly spread and evolve are more than willing to discuss further the effectiveness of these measures. Management must not be so quick to discard the Cuts in the regulation and monitoring of the meat effectiveness of such measures. Even the HSE (30 April) state on the industry also create huge dangers. In the Budget Alistair use of face masks: “.there may be situations when it will be Darling announced savings of £44 million by cutting advisable for a worker to wear a mask. Such a situation will depend “animal disease surveillance through a more risk-based on the nature of the work and where it is carried out” The HSE approach to monitoring and enforcement and by sharing “Employers should carry out a risk assessment and, amongst other things, gauge: If workers are likely to encounter members of the We live in the shadow of a global recession hanging public who are displaying symptoms; Where contact with people over us and the bosses and politicians want us to pay for displaying symptoms is likely, whether any measures can be taken to their crisis. Billions of public money has been poured minimise contact; The duration and frequency of contact with into the banking system. That money should be used to create jobs, housing and healthcare for all. And it should be used to ensure vaccinations are developed for the General hygiene and cleanliness will be key in preventing the spread treatment of various strains of influenza regardless of of the virus. We believe we need a far more robust review of the whether they become pandemic or not. Put people first.
cleaning contracts, deployment of cleaners and cleaning materials. Indeed, it would be seriously worth considering bring cleaning back in-house. These are extraordinary times and that requires extraordinary measures. We are not raising these issues to scaremonger or panic anyone. We believe that we need a far more robust approach to ensure the safety of our staff and that of the travelling public. The issues, as we said, are manifold. We are uniquely placed as operators of a mass transport system in either aiding the spread of the virus at greater speed and extent across the Capital or facilitating the isolation of the virus and saving lives. That requires a serious and concerted effort on your part to come and talk to us and engage in meaningful consultation to prepare for the worst even if it is not realised. A week has already been wasted. We’re ready to talk. Are you?

Source: http://www.rmtplatform.org.uk/sites/default/files/swineflu010509.pdf

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