Since the start of the pandemic, bus drivers have seen among the highest Covid death rates of any profession, with London bus drivers in particular affected.
Now, new figures from the Transport for London (TfL) have laid bare the extent of the massive toll the pandemic has taken on transport workers in the capital as a whole and bus drivers in particular.
The figures show that 57 staff, including 42 bus drivers, have died from coronavirus. What’s more, a shocking 10 per cent of all TfL staff – more than 3500 workers in total – are currently either on sick leave or self-isolating.
London bus drivers and other transport staff continue to fear for their lives at work. Unite, which helped secure more safety protections for bus drivers since the beginning of the pandemic, has called on both the government and bus companies to do more to protect their workers. The union is also now calling for transport workers to be prioritised for the vaccine.
Commenting on the latest figures, Unite lead officer for buses in London John Murphy said, “London’s bus drivers, who are truly essential frontline workers, paid a tragically high price during the beginning of the pandemic. These disturbing figures show that, once again, bus drivers and other transport workers are in the eye of the storm as they keep London moving.
“Unite has overseen improvements in safety procedures since the virus’ first peak last year and our health and safety reps are continuing to monitor workplaces and make sure measures are implemented and improved upon,” he added.
“More needs to be done by both government and employers, however, to protect drivers and other transport workers. This includes the provision of higher quality PPE, increased testing and the appropriate prioritisation of frontline workers, such as bus drivers, in receiving the vaccine,” Murphy continued.
“Remote sign on, where drivers begin and end their shifts at bus stops rather than at garages, also needs to be scrapped. The practice prevents drivers from using toilets, canteens and rest areas and forces them to interact with more people than necessary – all of which increases the risk of exposure.
“Members of the public have their part to play to keep communities and transport workers safe as well, by wearing masks on buses and trains at all times and keeping journeys down to an absolute minimum.”
By Ryan Fletcher