Unite the union, which represents over 20,000 bus workers in London, has strongly welcomed a decision by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to order a moratorium on bus operators in the capital introducing remote sign on procedures.
Remote sign on means drivers do not report to a depot to start work, but meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop. By forcing drivers to start work away from the depot, it reduces costs and boosts the company’s profits. The driver is only paid for the period when they are driving the bus.
Unite has calculated that the introduction of remote sign on will equate to an immediate seven per cent cut in wages on average for affected workers. If a bus is delayed the driver is left, unpaid and in the open, for considerable lengths of time in all weather, increasing issues of tiredness and fatigue.
Unite argues that there is no benefit to passengers, and in fact, remote sign on could cause disruption to services, if a driver is delayed or unable to sign on remotely. There are also major safety implications, as there are no checks to ensure a driver is fit for work. Furthermore, forcing the driver to travel to a bus stop to begin driving will result in them being at greater risk of exposure to Covid-19.
Following intense lobbying from Unite, and with the growing possibility of London-wide strike action over bus operators being able to move towards a remote sign on model when bidding for routes, Sadiq Khan instructed the board at Transport for London (TfL) to introduce an immediate moratorium.
The moratorium will not be lifted until detailed research into remote sign on is completed. Unite has been promised full input into the development of the report.
As a result of proposals by bus operator Metroline to introduce remote sign on for its routes, Unite is currently in the process of balloting its 4,000 plus members at the company for industrial action. The ballot, where Unite is hopeful of huge affirmative vote for action due to workers’ concerns about the company’s plans, will close on Friday 9 April.
Unite regional officer Mary Summers, who represents Metroline workers, said, “Metroline workers are on the frontline of plans to introduce remote sign on in London.
“I am convinced that their anger and concern will be expressed in the ballot result due on April 9,” she added.
“An overwhelmingly vote in favour of strike action should shake some sense into Metroline, which needs to not just pause its remote sign on plans but discard them into the dustbin of history.”
Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said, “This is excellent news.The moratorium on introducing remote sign heads off the immediate threat of strike action across London.
“London bus workers, who were clapped as heroes and who saw too many of their colleagues die of Covid, are not prepared to see their pay slashed in real terms,” he added.
“Unite believes that the promised in-depth research that TfL has been mandated to undertake will reveal that remote sign on is bad news for drivers, detrimental to passengers and risks the safety of all road users.”
By Barckley Sumner