Protests were held at eight railway stations on Sunday calling for justice for Belly Mujinga who died of COVID-19 after being spat at whilst working. Vigils were held at Victoria, Kings Cross, Brighton, Tooting, Croydon and more Autonomy News received this press release.
Embargoed until 18.10.20 – 13:00 pm
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Campaigners Target Govia Thameslink Railway, call for Justice for Belly Mujinga
The Justice for Belly Mujinga Campaign group support her family’s call for a public inquiry into her death. A socially distanced vigil will take place on Sunday 18th of October at GTR stations from Bedford to Brighton. Campaigners will hold vigils at the following stations at midday: Victoria, Kings Cross, Croydon, Tooting, Clapham Junction, Bedford, Brighton, Flitwick and Harlington.
- 47-year-old Belly Mujinga worked for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) as a ticket office clerk at Victoria Station in London. On 21st March she and another black colleague were spat at and verbally abused by a man on the concourse, who claimed to have Covid-19.
- Belly was known to have health problems that meant she should not have been placed on frontline duties. Her supervisor ordered her to work on the concourse without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Belly had a grievance against her team leader, citing victimisation and racial discrimination – the same team leader who ordered her to work on the concourse that day. Belly’s role that day according to the rota was in the ticket office – her substantial role and where she both felt and was safer. Why was she made to go out onto the concourse?
- GTR management didn’t report the assault to the police. They claimed this was because they were unaware it was a ‘spitting incident’, but a later public statement from GTR contradicts this and suggests they were aware of the nature of the assault. Belly and her colleague pleaded with their managers not to be sent back to the concourse, but their concerns were ignored.
- A few days later Belly came down with Covid-19 symptoms. It wasn’t until Belly’s consultant phoned her bosses a few days later and insisted she be stood down from work that her manager agreed. By this time she was already desperately ill. She was admitted to hospital on 2nd April, and died three days later, on 5th April, of Covid-19. She leaves behind her husband, Lusamba, and 11-year-old daughter, Ingrid.
- In August, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that no charges would be brought against the man who spat at Belly. The ruling was based on the results from an antibody test, which experts agree are unreliable and which were new to the market at the time.
- In September GTR concluded their internal investigation into Belly’s death, which absolved them of any wrongdoing. We know, thanks to last night’s Panorama documentary ‘Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth’, that GTR released two different versions of the report. The first was sent to Belly’s union, the Transport Salaries Staffs’ Association (TSSA), where they admitted they were aware of Belly’s underlying health conditions. A month later GTR released a public version of the report, but now claimed they were unaware of her underlying health conditions.
Motolani, Belly’s friend and colleague who was also assaulted that day, was a formidable union rep. She has now resigned from her job and as a rep and is seeking constructive dismissal against GTR.
There are ongoing health and safety concerns at Victoria and an alleged culture of racism and bullying of Black members of staff.
- Belly’s family and their lawyers at Equal Justice are calling for a Public Inquiry into her death. We stand with them, demanding justice and the truth.
We are Labour Party, Momentum and Trade Union members, anti-racist campaigners and grassroots activists, united in anger and grief at Belly Mujinga’s death, determined to seek justice for her and her family. On Sunday 18th October we will hold small, socially-distanced vigils outside stations across GTR’s network, from Bedford to Brighton, including Victoria, Kings Cross, Bedford, Flitwick, Harlington, Brighton, Croydon, Clapham Junction and Tooting. We will also encourage people to hold doorstep vigils for Belly Mujinga.
Members of the campaign say:
“It’s been 6 months since the tragic death of Belly Mujinga and yet family and friends still painfully wait for justice. GTR needs to be held to account and answer serious questions and that’s why we’ll be outside GTR stations on Sunday demanding justice for Belly and saying loud and clear: #BlackLivesMatter.” – Artin Giles
“The death of Belly Mujinga highlights the way Black workers are treated. She should never have been there and now her family have to go through life without her.” Andrea Gilbert
“As we enter the avoidable second wave it’s clear no actions have been taken to mitigate the disproportionate impact on BAME workers. In seeking justice for Belly, we’re seeking justice and protections for all workers, particularly those who’ve been exploited long before the pandemic.” Navid Somani
Sonali Bhattacharyya from the Justice for Belly Mujinga campaign says:
“The Panorama documentary and the letter to the Prime Minister from Equal Justice, the lawyers working with Belly’s family, outline the catalogue of institutional failures, racism, harassment, and negligence that contributed to the avoidable death of Belly Mujinga.
We demand a public inquiry. Belly’s family deserve to know the truth about the circumstances that led to her death.
We demand that all frontline workers receive protections and support to prevent more avoidable deaths from Covid-19. We demand that risk assessments take into account the disproportionately high risk of Covid-19 to frontline BAME workers.
We demand that concerns of BAME staff are listened to and addressed. We demand that an impartial hotline service for vulnerable staff be facilitated so they can report their fears safely.”
- A public inquiry into the death of Belly Mujinga.
- An extension of the bereavement support scheme to all frontline workers.
- Full support and protections for all frontline workers from Covid-19, including risk assessments that take into account the disproportionate risk faced by BAME workers.
Pictures and videos will follow on the day.
Notes for Editors: