Unite has accused Transport for London (TfL) of attempting to sweep concerns about the health and welfare of bus drivers under the carpet with its response to the London Assembly’s report ‘Driven to Distraction’, which was published this week.
‘Driven to Distraction’ found that London bus drivers suffered considerable stress, had shortened rest breaks, were denied toilet facilities and had to endure enforced overtime. The report set out a large number of recommendations and compelled TfL to respond.
However the long awaited response from TfL to the report fails to address bus workers’ concerns.
Of particular concern is TfL’s rejection of the recommendation that it should set specific safety targets for bus operators. Without specific safety measures as part of the ‘Quality Incentive Contracts’ bus operators are required to meet, operators cut rest periods in order to maximise running time and profits.
The report also recommended that TfL should commission comprehensive independent research into London bus drivers’ working conditions with a focus on fatigue.
TfL has rejected this recommendation, stating: ‘we plan to discuss this matter at ‘the bus safety summit this month.’
The report recommends that additional work is undertaken to understand and reduce the number of distractions facing drivers, in order to improve safety. Once again TfL states that its existing work with bus operators is adequate.
The disappointing response to the ‘Driven to Distraction’ report comes a week after Unite released the findings of its survey highlighting the abuse and assaults experienced by London bus drivers.
The report found that 12 per cent of bus drivers had been subject to a spitting assault in the past year, a massive 86 per cent had suffered a verbal assault and two per cent said they had been a victim of a physical assault. In 50 per cent of cases the driver had not reported the abuse to management due to fears of being blamed or disciplined as a result.
As a result of the survey Unite has launched a campaign aimed at reducing assaults and abuse, especially spitting. Called ‘Reported, Supported, No pressure, Sorted’ it aims to dramatically increase the reporting of incidents of abuse and reduce the number of assaults on bus drivers.
Unite regional officer John Murphy said, “Bus drivers are being forced to operate in an environment which is putting their health and wellbeing and the safety of passengers at risk.
“TfL’s decidedly lukewarm response to the excellent ‘Driven to Distraction’ report demonstrates that it is attempting to sweep these issues under the carpet. TfL’s response is long on rhetoric and short on action,” he added.
“Bus drivers are carrying out their duties in an increasingly difficult environment and TfL has a moral duty to both them and the general public to ensure they are provided with a decent working environment.
“In the coming weeks Unite will be stepping up its campaign to ensure our members are treated fairly and decently and we will be ensuring that the working conditions of bus drivers are improved with or without the assistance of TfL.”