Bus drivers left to ‘sit on a wall’

Strike action ballot over ‘remote’ work which could affect the number 4, 30 and 43 routes

Friday, 9th October 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Emeka Nyack-Ihenacho

Thirty-four bus workers died from the coronavirus in London before safety measures were introduced in April, including Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, who drove the No 4 bus through Islington

BUS drivers are being balloted for strike action after being told to sign on for their shifts remotely.

Instead of reporting to a depot, they will meet their bus and begin work at a bus stop.

Unite the union are calling on the Metroline bus company to drop the proposals, which could affect the Nos 4, 30 and 43 routes.

A staff consultation is under way over whether to introduce the system to other routes.

“The industry has been going downward,” said bus-driving blogger Jimmy Buses – he does not use his real surname.

“There is more and more stress put on drivers, which in my opinion makes you more susceptible to having an accident.”

The union said there were also concerns around the risk of exposure to Covid-19 from travelling to a location which has not undergone similar risk assessment checks or health measures as buses and depots.

Thirty-four bus workers died from the virus in London before safety measures were introduced in April, of which 29 were drivers.

Jimmy Buses said: “Sometimes we have a two-hour break but we can’t use the Metroline canteen. For two hours you have to sit on a wall or walk around.”

Unite regional officer Mary Summers said: “The company are experimenting with the safety of London’s transport network during a pandemic which is reckless in the extreme.

“This is a huge slap in the face to drivers who lost colleagues during the pandemic but who still in the spirit of public service continued to ensure key workers got to work.”

A Metroline spokesperson said: “Where this has been introduced, currently on route 134, remote sign-on has proved to be incredibly popular with our drivers and there is a waiting list for drivers wanting to get on this rota because they can see the benefits.

“We have been very clear throughout the consultation that we will only introduce remote sign-on only where there are suitable driver facilities including toilets, hot and cold water and, where possible, canteens.”

The ballot on strike action will close on October 26.

A Transport for London spokesperson said: “We urge Unite and Metroline to work together and come to a positive resolution as soon as possible.”

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