Unite, the union which represents over 20,000 bus drivers in London, has secured a major victory in its campaign against the introduction of highly controversial remote sign-on operating procedures.
Bus operator HCT (Hackney Community Transport) has confirmed to Unite that it has withdrawn proposals to introduce remote sign on at its Walthamstow garage in North East London.
The decision by HCT to not progress with remote sign on, where a bus driver does not begin work at a depot but meets their bus at an outside location, further isolates bus operator Metroline which is trying to force through the introduction of remote sign on for its routes in North and West London.
As a direct result of Metroline’s plans to introduce remote sign on, Unite is currently in the process of balloting its members for industrial action. If members vote for industrial action, there are likely to be strikes on Metroline bus services this autumn, creating severe disruption across London.
Unite regional officer John Murphy said, “HCT’s decision to withdraw proposals for remote sign on are very welcome.
“It shows what is achievable through negotiation when dealing with a responsible employer who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of its drivers.
“HCT was prepared to listen and understood Unite’s concerns, especially around safety and the dangers of drivers being exposed to Covid-19, with infection rates rising rapidly.
“Metroline has become increasingly isolated in its mania to introduce remote sign on. It is hoped that it now takes a leaf out of HCT’s book and drops these ill-thought out proposals altogether.”
Unite is opposed to remote sign on for many reasons. These include safety – because there will be no checks to ensure the driver is fit and well to drive a bus and lack of access to toilet facilities, rest and canteen facilities.
Unite also highlights that with remote sign on, drivers will be forced to wait for their bus to arrive in all weather conditions, potentially harming their health and ability to drive a bus over a long shift.
Remote sign on moreover means greater risk of exposure to Covid-19 in travelling to a location which has not been subject to the risk assessment and health measures in place in a depot
It also increases the dangers and problems of fatigue as drivers will be subjected to far higher travelling time
Unite is opposed to remote sign on too, because of the lack of back-up. If a driver is delayed or a bus is not operational, then at a depot there is always alternative options to provide passenger transport.
By Barckley Sumner