Bus company Arriva has been accused of a lax response to public and worker safety when one of its bus drivers tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
Unite which represents over 60,000 bus drivers throughout the UK, raised its concern following the news that a driver based at Arriva’s Southern Counties Northfleet depot in North Kent had tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday August 25.
On discovering that they were infected, the driver acted responsibly and immediately contacted their employer. The union is concerned that the bus company did not act with sufficient swiftness to draw this news to the attention of workers and passengers.
The driver had been in work the previous day and spent 45 minutes in the staff canteen and also spent time on a ferry bus with other drivers while being taken to their route.
Unite estimates that at least 8-10 people had been in contact with the driver for 15 minutes or more. The union advised the company that, in keeping with health and safety best practice, these workers should self-isolate on full pay at least until they could be tested and undergo a full consultation with a medical professional.
This approach was rejected by Arriva who stated that its premises are ‘Covid secure’ so the risk of infection was low.
The failure of Arriva to take proactive measure has caused considerable alarm and distress among bus drivers at the depot.
“The lax attitude of Arriva to this Covid-19 positive case is alarming,” commented Unite regional officer Dave Weeks. “It means that potentially other workers and the general public are now at greater risk of exposure to the infection.
“The drivers at Northfleet now believe that management are not interested in their health and well-being and are more interested in profits than people.
“What made the case even more alarming is that Arriva’s senior management did not appear to know what policy and procedures should be followed in such circumstances.
“Arriva has to up its game. It must ensure that drivers have not been exposed to Covid-19 and that they are not potentially spreading it.
“Further, any worker who has been exposed to the virus in the workplace should be fully supported by their employer to take the appropriate public health precautions, and not suffer a financial penalty as a result.
“Unless companies take a responsible attitude and ensure that workers can self-isolate and are fully paid, then workplace transmission of Covid-19 is going to increase. “
By Barckley Sumner