Unite the Union: London facing standstill as exhausted bus drivers prepare for strike action

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is warning that London could face gridlock if exhausted bus drivers take industrial action later this year.

Unite will begin a consultative ballot of over 20,000 members employed as London bus drivers later this month and, provided a yes vote is secured, a full industrial action ballot will then follow.

Decisive action

Unite is demanding that London bus operators and Transport for London (TfL) take decisive action to tackle chronic levels of fatigue being experienced by bus drivers.

Unite is sharply critical of individual bus operators who have suggested that the solution is simply about ensuring drivers get more sleep.

Driving revolution

Unite is instead demanding a revolution in how bus driving is scheduled to ensure that drivers can finish on time, are able to utilise all of their breaks, work to proper schedules, have enough running time to complete their journey, are treated with respect and receive proper training.

A survey by Loughborough University which was commissioned by TfL, and published last August, discovered that 21 per cent of bus drivers had to ‘fight sleepiness’ at least two or three times a week and 17 per cent had actually fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in the past year.

Loughborough report 

Since the publication of the Loughborough report, TfL has attempted to deflect responsibility for the fatigue being suffered by bus drivers and has said that it is the responsibility of individual bus operators to resolve the situation. Unite believes this position is entirely unacceptable.

A survey of over 5,000 Unite bus driver members in September found 44 per cent of bus drivers work six days a week and long hours created severe physical, mental and relationship problems. A total of 79 per cent of drivers reported that in the past year they had made errors while driving due to tiredness.

Drivers had enough

Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “London bus drivers have had enough; they are permanently fatigued and at risk of being a danger to other road users, bus passengers and themselves.

“Unite will shortly be conducting a consultative ballot and provided our members endorse industrial action, strikes will follow later this year unless action is taken to ensure that the problems causing chronic fatigue for our members are resolved.

“TfL cannot simply sweep this problem under the carpet. It must act decisively and stop trying to pass the problem onto bus operators who have consistently failed to resolve the issue and have instead allowed it to worsen.

“For the last 25 years bus operators have been failing to deal with this problem. Unite members are saying enough is enough.”