Unite, which represents over 80,000 public transport workers, is warning that the government must establish clear rules about maximum passenger capacity and make the wearing of face masks compulsory to keep buses and other forms of public transport safe during the pandemic.
The union issued its warning following the publication today of the government’s safer transport –guidance for operators document, which provides basic guidance for employers in protecting passengers and workers during the pandemic.
Unite also believes the guidance on risk assessments must be stricter. Risk assessments must by detailed, dynamic, strictly adhered to, available to workers and regularly updated.
“Unite is very concerned that the document lacks clarity with regards to the maximum capacity of passengers allowed on buses and trams,” Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said. “If the government is serious about ensuring that social distancing is maintained there must be strict rules on maximum capacity.
“It is not good enough to recommend face coverings,” he added. “They need to become mandatory on public transport. This will dramatically reduce the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted.
“The government must clearly direct bus operators on how to police maximum capacity rules, this must not be the responsibility of the driver.
“Far too many bus workers have died during this pandemic and it must be made clear to the public that drivers will not be expected to leave their cab, which should be totally sealed off from passengers,” Morton went on to say.
“This is an issue that the government must immediately address. Buses are already seeing increased usage at peak times and overcrowding issues are already occurring.
“To run a safe, socially distanced service, the number of buses in service must be increased but that will require investment from government.
“You can’t run a safe socially distanced public transport network on the cheap.”
Unite has repeatedly called for union safety reps to be utilised in all workplaces in the belief that safe working and safe transport must go together in order to beat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unite is also continuing to campaign for the £60,000 life assurance coronavirus payment for health workers be paid to bus workers. A high number of bus workers especially those working in London have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
You can read more about Unite’s response to the government’s new public transport travel and return to work guidance here.
By Barckley Sumner