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From: The Socialist issue 1089, 3 June 2020: Stand firm for workplace safety

Search site for keywords: Buses - London - Reps - Drivers - Unite - Travel - Transport

Fight continues for safety on London buses

To help protect drivers from infection, union reps on London buses won agreement that the front bus doors would remain closed

To help protect drivers from infection, union reps on London buses won agreement that the front bus doors would remain closed   (Click to enlarge)

Moe, London bus driver (personal capacity) and Socialist Party member

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that the front doors on London buses were being reopened on several routes. In April, to help protect drivers from infection, union reps on London buses won an agreement that the front bus doors would remain closed and free travel would be implemented.

Now, a study by University College London has 'established' that doors are safe to reopen.

Many drivers think that doors are being reopened because TfL wants to collect revenue. Unions must not fall under pressure to reopen doors because of revenue. Collection of revenue must never be the priority. We must make sure that cabs are sealed off.

Unite union correctly gave power to its health and safety reps at every garage to ensure buses are sealed off before leaving the depot on 30 May,.But it failed due to poor planning, and companies let out buses regardless. Many reps weren't working on 30 May, and some reps didn't know about it. That's why it's important to demand more health and safety reps - it can't be right to have just one rep who may find it difficult to attend a union course.

We have been arguing for more health and safety reps to attend courses as soon as elected. Often reps are prevented by bosses from attending, but Unite must stand up and ensure every rep gets to a course within three months. On the buses workplace reps are usually also health and safety reps.

On 30 May, some buses left the depot with different types of designs to seal the bus cabs, not all agreeing to the union's rule that it must not have a gap of more than 5mm. Some plastic materials were flimsy and melted from the hot weather, and fell off. In order to have one design we must have one publicly owned bus service, where workers' democratic control and management will ensure safety.

Simultaneously, the bus capacity was reduced. Drivers are now able to skip stops, but drivers had to wait for this safety measure to be confirmed as management previously told drivers not to do so. But some drivers did it regardless because they felt that the virus can pass through if they had too many passengers.

To ensure safety for drivers and passengers across all the network, we demand a London-wide safety agreement from Unite. This should be on the basis of a meeting of convenors, reps and health and safety reps looking at the scientific evidence, including the risk assessments of union reps.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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