Bus drivers in London have been driven to their limits, with a report showing that 17% have reported falling asleep whilst driving as a result of exhaustion. Unite the Union is to begin a consultative ballot for industrial action.
Unite the Union is to begin a consultative ballot of over 20,000 London bus drivers for industrial action. Drivers have been suffering from exhaustion associated with the ever-increasing pressure of what is a mentally demanding job. Should drivers vote in favour, a ballot for full industrial action will follow.
Transport for London (TfL), which manages the concessions to individual bus operating companies, has so far failed to take action on driver overwork and exhaustion. Should the strike go ahead, it will be the first London-wide bus strike since a 24-hour walkout over low pay in January 2015.
Bus driver campaign to deal with Fatigue and stress. London bus drivers will hold a consultative ballot on 7th February. pic.twitter.com/Oeab1JMW0W
— LEUniteCommunity (@OurCommunityLE) January 15, 2020
At breaking point
London bus drivers are fed up with inaction over their work conditions. An explosive report on bus driver fatigue from Loughborough University was released in May 2019, illustrating just how dire the situation is. It revealed that drivers working early morning shifts have had on average 1.5 fewer hours of sleep than those on daytime shifts or rest days.
According to the report, 21% of drivers battle with sleepiness on the job at least 2-3 times per week. In the past 12 months, fatigue has resulted in 36% of drivers having a ‘close call’, and nearly 1 in 5 (17%) have fallen asleep whilst driving.
In a separate survey of Unite members, 79% of drivers reported errors due to fatigue. In a typical week, 44% of drivers work six days out of seven. This has a profound impact on the safety of bus drivers and passengers, as well as an extremely detrimental impact on bus drivers’ quality of life.
These figures are a terrifying example of the logic of capitalism. To maximise profits, the working conditions of bus drivers are driven further and further down. The result is that drivers, passengers and road users are put at risk, all for the sake of the profits of the bus company owners.
London bus drivers have a chance to take on Tory anti-union laws, bus operators and TfL in their fight against poor working conditions.
We must not only call for improved working conditions for drivers. This absurd system of concessions to private operators in Greater London, and unregulated privatised bus services everywhere else cannot go on. We must bring all bus services across London and the rest of the UK into public ownership under democratic workers control.