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From: The Socialist issue 962, 13 September 2017: It's 'pay-back' time!

Search site for keywords: Bus workers - Public ownership - London - Drivers - Unite - Buses - Transport

Bus safety: we won't be distracted from public ownership

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Andy Beadle, Unite Battersea bus branch

Twenty-five deaths and nearly 12,000 injuries have been caused by buses on the capital's streets in just two years. The lethal pressures heaped on bus drivers are shown in a new report 'Driven to Distraction', by the London Assembly's Transport Committee.

Unite's bus workers are demonstrating at City Hall to demand the report's fine words are translated into action. This is a scandal that stands alongside the deaths and devastation from Britain's privatised trains. The same companies, like Arriva, First and Stagecoach, operate London buses.

"Long periods of intense concentration and a system run on stressful, barely achievable targets inevitably have consequences for the industry", says the report.

If we do our job properly, we will be pressed with demands from the controllers and reports to our manager for being late. We will be punished with being forced to finish late and shortened meal breaks.

From drivers to directors, everyone knows this and understands the consequences. But everyone has rewards for turning a blind eye to safety.

If you take shortcuts, like quickly filling all the tickboxes without physically doing all the checks (which frankly is all we get time for) then you get no hassle. Of course, if you have an accident as a result, the company will make you a scapegoat.

Driven to Distraction gives some brilliant examples in "A day in the life of a bus driver" and shows a big range of distractions we face at every moment. It's worth a look.

However, the report shows effects but not causes. After more than two decades of privatisation and neglect even London's pro-austerity, pro-capitalist politicians have been forced to respond. But what will they do?

The report admits, "TfL [Transport for London] cannot realistically expect bus operators to give safety the priority it deserves without financial reward." Socialists would struggle to find a better reason to bring buses back under public ownership with democratic control by bus workers and users!

TfL faces massive cuts from central government. Yet the report calls for measures including "performance-related payments" to senior staff (515 TfL staff are already on over 100,000 annual pay). They want more driver training, better fleet maintenance, probably more drivers and a whole load of other things. How is it all going to happen?

They "are concerned that the working day is too long for drivers". So are we! But we don't work rest days and overtime because we love driving so much. Shorter hours must mean no loss of pay.

  • Unite bus workers demonstration: Thursday 14 September, 9.30am, at City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA





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