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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

On the buses

by New Worker correspondent

IN LONDON, sick pay from day one for the capital’s 20,000 bus men and women has been secured by their union, Unite.

This victory only came after intense pressure on bus operators, Transport for London (TfL), the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the national government for better protection from COVID-19 for bus workers.

Over 21 London transport workers have died as a result of the virus, 15 of them bus workers. Some bus workers may have felt that they had to come to work when exhibiting signs of having caught the disease because of the lack of company sick pay.

Unite says that securing company sick pay from day one, regardless of length of service, means that bus workers fearful of having contracted the illness can now stay home safe in the knowledge that they will not be plunged into immediate hardship.

A regional officer for the union, John Murphy, said: “If they fall victim to this virus, bus workers need to be able to go sick from day one, to isolate themselves and to recuperate. They should not face a terrible choice between health and hardship. Keeping people at home when they are unwell has to be part of the effort to combat this virus. With this victory we can now concentrate our efforts to make people safer at work.”

He also said that the union is pressing “the best in PPE [personal protective equipment], masks and gloves to be available for bus workers and for the ending of rear door entry trials and for sealed front doors rolled out immediately across the capital’s buses”.

Across the country First South West Bus, which serves Bristol, Bath and Somerset, has come under attack from transport union RMT for what it calls the “most inept steps they have ever seen from an employer to protect their workers from COVID-19”.

After making strenuous representation to First South West Buses to fit suitable Perspex screens to their fleet of buses in order to provide a physical barrier between the driver and their passengers, all the company did was to screw what looked like a shower curtain to the ceiling of the drivers cab that hung well short of the bus wind-screen. It was so flimsy passengers could been pull it to one side in order to speak to the driver.

General Secretary Mick Cash said that: “Sainsbury’s are clearly far more concerned with the safety of their staff than you appear to be. Sainsbury’s have within 24 hours sourced and fitted to multiple check outs high quality Perspex screens that give a good level of protection and they were fitted to check outs at a maximum time of 20 minutes per unit.”

The matter has been taken up with Public Health England (PHE), who are conducting a review of transport safety in relation to COVID-19.

He also noted that: “RMT also has other concerns about the bus industry including issues for engineering staff in depots and the facilities provided for employees in mess rooms. Many bus drivers on rural routes have no access to facilities to wash their hands – a key risk control measure as advised by Public Health England.”