'Heart-breaking sacrifice'

Unite honours fallen London bus workers - and demands more portections

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Unite has paid tribute to bus and transport workers in London who have died after contracting coronavirus ahead of a one minute’s silence being held at 11am tomorrow (April 17) and demanded that more be done to protect those still working.

The tribute comes as it has emerged on Wednesday (April 15) that the death toll of transport workers in London has risen to 26, including 15 bus workers – up from 21 just two days previous.

Unite has been fighting for bus workers across the country to ensure that they have the requisite PPE and that other safety measures are in place to eliminate the risks they face.

Earlier this week, Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said that the measures in place now are not good enough. He told BBC Radio 4 that, for example, many bus drivers don’t have access to facilities that many of us take for granted – to for example wash their hands.

“It’s okay saying wash your hands in hot water, but if you don’t have the facilities to do it you don’t do it,” he said.

Morton welcomed many measures that have been introduced, but he added, “All these measures merely reduce the risk. What I’m looking for from the bus operators…is that the risk should be eradicated and not reduced.”

As UniteLive highlighted earlier this month when the first bus worker deaths happened, Unite is leaving no stone unturned in the fight for stringent safety measures.

In London, while a number of health and safety measures have been taken on London buses amid the coronavirus epidemic, including deep cleaning of buses; additional cleaning of touch points; the sealing of screens around the driver; the provision of hand sanitizer for all; and placing the passenger seating closest to the driver out of bounds, Unite has said more must be done with urgency.

One of the latest measures Unite is now calling for is the closure of front doors. In addition to central loading, Unite is demanding that TfL instigate a London-wide inspection regime for cleaning at all garages.

The union is also calling for the establishment of limits on the number of passengers that can board at any one time, as well as the requirement that passengers cover their faces while using public transport.

Commenting today (April 16) ahead of the one minute’s silence tomorrow morning, Unite regional secretary for London, Pete Kavanagh, said, “Unite pays tribute to those bus workers who have died during the coronavirus pandemic and our thoughts are with their loved ones at this incredibly painful time. Their heart-breaking sacrifice, at a time of critical need, will never be forgotten.

“Far too many bus workers have lost their lives during this crisis and our members are well aware that the danger has still has not passed. Unite has 20,000 bus worker members across the capital,” he said. “It is quite clear to us that they are running out of patience with the operators and TfL, and we share their frustrations.

“These workers should feel that everything possible is being done to make them feel safe at work, but they don’t. We call again upon TfL to close the front doors on all buses to ensure central boarding only by passengers.

“TfL, the employers, the mayor and the government all need to urgently address all issues.”

Please be sure to join us on Friday (April 17) morning at 11am to observe a one minute’s silence for bus workers.

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