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‘Intolerable’ lack of access

World Toilet Day: UK transport workers denied toilet dignity
Barckley Sumner, Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Research by Unite has found that workers in the transport sector are being routinely denied access to toilets, which is creating health issues and in some cases forcing workers to leave their jobs.


Unite has released its research to coincide with World Toilet Day on Tuesday (November 19); the theme for this year is ‘no one left behind’.

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A recent survey of nearly 5,000 bus drivers, who are members of Unite, found that 83 per cent of them are “not supplied with a list of toilet facilities or a map should the need arise on routes”.


The lack of accessible toilet facilities on a bus route is a particularly important issue for bus drivers as shifts are regularly 5 and half hours long before they have a break from driving and forcing drivers to wait that long before using a toilet can cause serious health issues and can also result in them becoming distracted and losing concentration while driving.


A separate survey of over 4,000 lorry drivers also identified a major issue with a lack of access to toilets. The survey found that when asked the question; ‘when sleeping at a lay-by are you able to easily access toilet and washroom facilities’ 89 per cent of respondents said they rarely or never had access to such facilities.

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Lorry drivers are regularly forced to sleep in lay-bys in order to comply with driving regulations due to the chronic lack of truck stops.


“Toilet facilities are awful,” one anonymous worker told Unite. “Most are locked or out of use. Drivers having to relieve themselves in country areas due to poorly placed breaks. One driver who is a 63 year old woman reliving herself in a lay-by due to this. Ridiculous.”


“The company doesn’t believe a human requires the need to use a toilet,” added another. “We are robots.”


Another worker explained how several premises where he and his colleagues used to have access to toilets have now closed.


“Access to toilets is very limited, especially outside of office hours,” the worker said. “This is one of the main reasons that I am seeking alternative employment at this time.”

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Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said, “Transport workers the length and breadth of the UK are being denied toilet dignity on a daily basis.


“Unite is using the opportunity of World Toilet Day to highlight this public health problem and this year’s slogan of no one being left behind is particularly apt as, transport workers are definitely being left behind when it comes to toilet dignity,” she added.


“The lack of access to toilets is simply intolerable and can and does result in our members developing severe health problems and in some cases being forced to quit their jobs due to medical conditions.


“This is an issue for all transport workers, but a lack of access to toilets for women when they have their period or are going through the menopause, or facilities where they risk abuse or sexual harassment, are more barriers faced by women working in this sector where they are already underrepresented,” Holland went on to say.


“Employers have a clear legal duty to provide adequate toilets for their workers and Unite will be ensuring that those duties are met.


“No workers should be denied toilet dignity by either not having decent facilities or by not being able to freely access them. That is why Unite supports the global transport workers sanitation charter being launched for this World Toilet Day and we are calling on all employers to sign up and make a difference.”


  • Pics by Mark Thomas 



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