Unite, which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, has confirmed today (Tuesday) that it has agreed new measures to reduce the risk of this workforce being exposed to coronavirus at work. But, says the union, further action is needed.
Unite has been working continuously with Transport for London (TfL) to try to ensure that bus drivers are safe since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. However, already eight bus workers have died of the disease.
The vast majority of London bus companies have now agreed that Unite health and safety reps will be released full-time from their duties to ensure that the safety measures already in place, including deep cleaning of buses, the supply of sanitiser, placing seats next to the driver out of bounds and strict social distancing measures in garages and depots, are fully enforced.
Unite has also had it confirmed that all the drivers’ screens will be sealed by tomorrow (Wednesday 8 April).
Unite officials have been in regular contact with Sadiq Khan in order to secure the enhanced measures but are now seeking further action from TfL to protect bus drivers and passengers.
Key safety improvements
The two key safety improvements that the union is demanding must be introduced are the closure of the front doors so passengers only enter and exit the bus from the central and rear doors and a reduction in the number of passengers allowed on a bus at one time to further increase social distancing.
Unite is also working with the capital’s bus companies to ensure that drivers are not being forced to take their breaks on the road but in areas that are clean, safe and where they can socially distance.
All measures being taken
Unite regional secretary Pete Kavanagh said: “Unite is doing everything within its power to ensure bus workers’ safety.
“The release of our safety reps means that in all garages Unite is now ensuring that all safety measures are being observed and strictly adhered to.
“If there are issues identified our reps will contact management and Unite immediately and problems will be quickly rectified.
“More action is urgently needed, though. TfL needs to instruct all bus companies to lock front doors with passengers no longer entering the bus next to the driver with immediate effect and certainly by tomorrow.
“To improve social distancing, which will protect drivers and passengers alike, the maximum number of bus passengers must also be reduced.
“Most of all we need action not prevarication from TfL. We have experienced too many tragedies during this crisis and every measure that can be taken to protect workers must be taken.”