Government and employers must act in response to the death of Belly Mujinga
I have received a huge amount of emails requesting a thorough investigation into the deeply saddening death of Belly Mujinga.
Belly Mujinga worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, ensuring that transport could remain operational for key workers throughout the crisis. News of Ms Mujinga’s death has raised some very serious and concerning questions regarding workplace safety and the UK justice system.
Firstly, Ms Mujinga was not provided with PPE by her employer Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). This is despite being a key worker throughout the peak of the COVID-19 crisis and her employer being aware of existing health conditions.
I have been calling for WHO standard PPE for all key workers since the beginning of this crisis. Following Ms Mujinga’s death I joined London MPs in re-establishing calls for PPE for all transport workers in a letter directly to the Prime Minister.
The letter, which you can read in full here, asks the Prime Minister:
“To ensure that transport operators have the requisite funds, and your Government’s support, to procure appropriate personal protective equipment to all public front facing staff.”
I have also written to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to ask for reassurance that all staff will now be provided with this protective equipment.
Secondly, this incident raises serious issues with the justice system in England. Ms Mujinga’s case was closed with no consequences, British Transport Police said:
“there is no evidence to substantiate any criminal offences having taken place, and the tragic death of Belly Mujinga was not a consequence of this incident”.
Whilst investigations have concluded that the incident involving a man spitting at Ms Mujinga and a co-worker did not lead to her death, it is highly concerning that no further actions will be taken in regards to the assault on Ms Mujinga and the breaking of lockdown guidelines, which in itself puts key workers at risk. On June 2nd 2020, a man who spat at a police officer in Glasgow was jailed for a total of 12 months.
I have written to the British Transport Police to request more information regarding their investigations. The public must be assured that police are taking this crisis seriously and are holding those who threaten public health to account. Closing this investigation without a detailed public explanation sends a message that it is acceptable to act irresponsibly with complete disregard for the lives of those who have put themselves in harms way throughout this crisis.
Finally, the death of Ms Mujinga highlights the human impact of the racial inequalities highlighted throughout this crisis.
In London, more than a quarter of transport workers operating tubes and buses, which remained open during the lockdown and, 67% of the adult social care workforce are from BAME backgrounds.
It has been highlighted, since close to the beginning of this crisis, that BAME residents in the UK are up to twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. Providing PPE is a necessary part of protecting BAME lives throughout this crisis and must be addressed as such.
Belly Mujinga leaves behind a husband and an 11 year old daughter. At least 33 transport workers have died in London throughout this crisis so far, each leaving behind friends and family.
I have also joined London MPs in calling on the Government to extend the Coronavirus life assurance lump sum scheme for the bereaved families of NHS workers to be extended to cover all transport workers who die from COVID-19.