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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

On the buses

by New Worker correspondent

THIS WEEK we can report two-and-a-half victories on issues reported earlier.

Last week we reported that 4,000 drivers employed by Metroline in London had voted by 95 per cent in favour of strike action over plans to introduce ‘remote sign-on’, a system whereby drivers do not report to a depot but meet a bus along a route, such as at a bus stop.

The mere threat of strike action, however, has been sufficient to force Metroline to hold its hand. It has agreed not to proceed, guaranteeing that the measure will not be introduced on current or new routes until 31 December 2022. If it plans to re-introduce it, this will only be after consultation with Unite the union. Eighty per cent of drivers have voted to accept this new proposal.

London regional officer Mary Summers said: “This is an excellent result for our members at Metroline who were rightly fearful of how remote sign-on would affect their pay, health and wellbeing.

“The level of anger expressed by Metroline workers demonstrates how deeply unpopular and potentially dangerous remote sign-on is among London bus drivers.”

The issue is not merely a technical one. Bus drivers are only paid for driving time, so remote sign-on is effectively a seven per cent cut in pay. It also means there are no checks on whether a driver is fit to drive a bus, which is a safety hazard.

Unite warns that because drivers need to drive longer to make up the shortfall in wages, coupled with being denied access to toilets, canteens and rest areas, remote sign-on will greatly increase fatigue levels and result in a higher level of ill health and road traffic accidents.

A promise to postpone the introduction is not a total victory. Transport for London, in theory, dislikes the new plans but needs to be pushed to take effective action.