Unite, the union for the UK’s bus workers, has warned that there is “no time for trials” of the new safety measures introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said that bus operators, regulators and the government must take immediate action to ensure bus worker safety.
Unite made its call following the announcement today (Wednesday 8 April) by Transport for London (TfL) that it was trialling closing the front door on buses on a limited number of routes.
Unite believes that the front doors on London buses should be locked immediately and alternative arrangements should be made for payment during this time.
For buses outside of London, Unite is demanding that all buses are fitted with a fully enclosed screen separating the driver from passengers, and that cash payments are no longer accepted to significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Unite further believes that the maximum number of passengers on a bus must be reduced to ensure that social distancing occurs in order to further protect drivers and the travelling public.
PPE for all key workers
Unite is additionally calling for all transport workers, who are considered to be key workers, to be provided with adequate personal protective equipment and for the government to ensure that there is sufficient production and delivery of such products to those who need them.
Nine bus workers have died in London and a number of bus workers in other parts of the UK have also have also fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
No time for trials
Unite regional secretary for London Pete Kavanagh said: “This is no time for trials. The coronavirus is a clear and imminent threat and tragically too many bus workers have already lost their lives.
“TfL needs to roll out the policy of locking the front door on all its buses immediately. Card readers can be moved to the central doors but the priority has to be safety, not income.
“Bus workers are key workers they must be treated as such and not as second class citizens.”
Bus drivers fearful
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “Bus drivers across the UK are becoming incredibly fearful for their safety.
“Most bus companies have introduced safety measures but clearly more needs to be done.
“Bus drivers should no longer be handling cash payments and wherever possible entry to the bus should be by central doors where that is an option.
“The government must also step in to reduce the number of passengers on each bus to further improve social distancing and increase the safety of passengers and drivers alike.
“Unite is working across the UK with every bus company where we have members. Our message to members is that if you have safety concerns, please contact the union and we will get them resolved.”