Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/738/15532
We need shorter hours!
Barry Andrews, London bus driver
As a new driver I remember being asked by the man behind the counter: "Are you resting tomorrow?" I answered "Yes".
I was puzzled when the supervisor responded "Do you want a rest day?" I thought I'd just told him I'd got the day off.
It took me a while to understand that in the Orwellian language of the bus garage "do you want a rest day?" means would I like to work on my rest day! Offering a driver a "rest day" is seen as doing them a favour.
Bus driving is still one of the highest paid regular jobs in the capital that many unskilled manual workers can hope to get.
That is partly because of the unsocial hours we are expected to drive. Early jobs start before 5am, late duties may finish after 1 or 2am. And they call us day drivers!
People of all backgrounds and nationalities are drawn into the job. With debts, young families to support and some struggling with mortgages it's not surprising that most of us work overtime.
Many drivers work six and seven days alternately. The law says bus and coach drivers can't work more than thirteen days in a row.
Usually plenty of "rest days" are available especially over the summer holiday period when some drivers are away.
I have seen drivers pleading with supervisors behind the counter to give them some overtime because they are desperate for the money.
The maximum daily driving time is ten hours and within that no more than five-and-a-half hours without a break.
The minimum break is 30 minutes but in London 40 is the established norm through union pressure.
Once I was expected to do a late job on Tuesday, finishing about 2am the following morning, rest on Wednesday then start a very early one on the Thursday.
Fortunately, I was lucky when I requested a change. Otherwise I could go sick or absent. But many drivers on my rota did those duties. How and if they fitted two nights' sleep into that 27 hour slot, I don't know.
A stronger union and the fight for reasonable hours isn't just an issue for drivers. It's a matter of public safety too! We need shorter hours with no loss of pay.
In The Socialist 17 October 2012:
Fighting the cuts
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
The Socialist Party