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7 August 2018
Turn the heat on the bosses not the bus drivers!
By a London bus driver
Every year, the private bus operators in London are caught out unprepared in summer and winter for both hot weather and freezing conditions. But drivers are left to pay the price along with passengers.
This summer, the heatwave is the longest since 1976 - 42 years ago. It is no exaggeration to say that drivers and the public are being put at risk.
While most drivers are experiencing over 35°C in the cab, some have themselves recorded a scorching 46°C! This is totally unacceptable. While there is no legal maximum working temperature, the TUC has called for a limit of 30°C (27°C for those doing strenuous work) and says:
"If the temperature is slightly below that, employers should still attempt to reduce temperatures if they get above 24°C and workers feel uncomfortable ... [but] it is usually accepted that people work best at a temperature between 16°C and 24°C."
We need air-con in all buses. Transport for London (TfL) says that it is a requirement that air-con be fitted in all vehicles made after 2012 - but how many have been built since then? We can't wait! We suspect that the employers haven't carried out risk assessments, fearing the outcome. If this is the case, the union should report them to the Health and Safety Executive.
The starting point is establishing safe maximum and minimum working temperatures. Otherwise, managers will threaten drivers with disciplinary action.
We have to fight this together, not as individuals. And, because of our collective strength, no drivers have been disciplined for taking time off the job to recover from excessive heat.
However, the threat remains. We demand immediate measures to alleviate the situation that drivers face and prepare union members to take industrial action if nothing happens or if any drivers are threatened with disciplinary action.
We have to give drivers confidence. Just a couple of drivers being interviewed on TV this week has shone a spotlight on this situation.
Profits and cuts
This problem is yet another reminder to drivers that fractured private ownership of buses across London, where the only motive is profit at the expense of everything else, can't deliver for drivers in terms of safety as well as wages, terms and conditions.
This is made worse by TfL's budget cuts that will see the annual operating grant to TfL, currently nearly £700 million, reduced to nil by 2020. If we don't fight, this will be taken out of our pay packets.
We call on Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan to join with busworkers and our unions in fighting the budget cuts and building a mass campaign of defiance against the Tories.
If he refuses to implement these cuts, it would put huge pressure on the weak Tory government.
We also call on Jeremy Corbyn to pledge to re-nationalise London buses into one integrated transport network in the capital as part of a national nationalised system.
Virtually every month, transport workers on the buses and trains around the UK are taking strike action over pay, conditions and jobs.
Imagine the power that transport workers in London could deliver if we coordinate across TfL.
Socialist Party drivers play a prominent role in the Unite union 'United Left' London buses group and we encourage more bus drivers to get involved.
What we want:
- Thermometers in every cab as well as hygrometers due to the humidity
- Safe maximum and minimum working temperatures
- Air-conditioning in every bus
- Free drinking water and staff facilities available at end of route
- More breaks; and drivers to have the right to stop work when too hot to drive safely
- Stop TfL budget cuts
- Re-nationalise London buses - for a publicly-owned integrated transport network
Workers unity to defeat the racist far-right FLA
Busworkers were furious to learn that a Muslim female driver was blockaded by 'Free Tommy Robinson' supporters on the recent far-right Football Lads Alliance protest in London.
Later that day, RMT union members were attacked, including assistant general secretary Steve Hedley.
These incidents show the true racist and anti-union character of the FLA. They try to portray themselves as anti-establishment but their racist division only benefits the Tories and the bosses.
Therefore, it's vital that the trade unions are at the centre of building mass opposition to them on a fighting, anti-austerity basis.
Unite was prominent on the counter-protest and there was a delegation of London bus drivers - representing one of the most diverse workforces, who have showed over the last few years what can be achieved when workers are united.
NSSN TUC Congress rally - Sunday September 9th in Manchester
In the year of the 150th anniversary of the TUC, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) will again be organising a rally before the start of TUC Congress.
It will be from 1pm on Sunday September 9th in the Manchester Mechanics Institute/Conference Centre, Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD.
Leaders from fighting unions will be speaking alongside rank amd file union reps and activists, including those who have been taking action.
Unite recently affiliated to the NSSN to become the 10th national union to officially support the NSSN. There will be transport from London.
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