Passenger welfare and staff safety are behind a re-ballot of more than 4,000 bus drivers in London for strike action over the controversial ‘remote sign-on’ policy, Unite the union, said today (February 25).
Unite will be balloting its members employed by bus operator Metroline for a second time, following the breakdown of talks held under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas.
The ballot opens on Wednesday, March 3 and closes on Friday, April 9. Metroline operates in north and west London and employs about 16 per cent of all bus drivers in the capital.
Remote sign on means drivers do not report to a depot, but meet their bus at an alternative location such as a bus stop. It forces drivers to start work away from the depot, reducing costs and boosting the company’s profits.
The remote sign-on policy raises concerns over lack of toilets and canteens; increased driving hours; and waiting for the bus in inclement weather.
Unite regional officer Mary Summers said, “We strongly argue that there is no benefit to passengers and remote sign-on could well cause disruption to services used by the hundreds of thousands of people who use buses every day to get to work and school.
“Metroline’s plan for remote sign-on is the thin edge of the wedge and will lead to zero hour contracts across the industry,” she added. “Drivers would have to choose to either ‘volunteer’ with a pay cut or be moved to another rota or route. That’s not voluntary – that’s blackmail.
“This campaign continues to be about safety and these issues were not even discussed at the Acas talks,” Summers continued.
“Our members are not swayed or fooled by the employer’s promises to make remote sign-on voluntary and have been angered by the bosses’ threats of legal action to thwart the overwhelming and legitimate mandate for strike action democratically achieved in the first ballot.”
Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said,“The casual roll out of remote sign-on, while ignoring the financial, fatigue and safety implications that this will have on bus drivers is incredible and foolhardy.
“It is not the way they were expecting to be treated after the commitment shown by bus workers and the sacrifice of those we sadly lost during this pandemic. Most are genuinely shocked that Transport for London (TfL) and bus companies would ignore the obvious risk this causes to protect their profit margins.”
Drivers at Metroline voted by 97 per cent for strike action in the autumn, however due to a technical issue the union was likely to fall victim to the UK’s anti-trade union rules, so strikes were not called.
By Shaun Noble