Shock survey reveals level of abuse, spitting and phys...

Shock survey reveals level of abuse, spitting and physical assault faced by London’s bus drivers

03 November 2017

London’s bus drivers face shocking levels of abuse, spitting and physical assaults as they go about their job of keeping the capital on the move according to the results of a survey released today (Friday 3 November) by Britain’s largest union, Unite.

The survey involving around 6,000 London bus drivers comes as Unite launches a new London wide campaign against assaults on the capital’s 25,000 bus drivers. According to the survey 12 per cent of bus drivers had been subject to a spitting assault in the past year, with a massive 86 per cent suffering from a verbal assault, while two per cent said they had been the victim of physical assault.

The survey also found that at least 50 per cent of the incidents were not reported by the driver to their employers because of fears of being blamed or disciplined as a result, in addition to a lack of faith in their employer or the police doing anything about the incident.

Surveyed drivers also said that when they reported spitting assaults, their employers would not give them paid time off to go to the police to report it, with many bus operators expecting them to continue with their driving duties. 

Called ‘Reported, Supported, No Pressure, Sorted,’ Unite’s campaign against assaults on bus drivers aims to increase the reporting and reduce the number of incidents and assaults.

With a particular emphasis on spitting assaults, the campaign is calling on all of London’s bus operators to follow through on Transport for London’s commitment to install spit kits on all London buses. These are used by drivers to swab the saliva so that it can be DNA tested in a bid to catch the culprit. 

Unite is also calling on operators to give drivers the time they need to take samples to the police to report incidents and for special spit kit freezers to be installed in bus depots to preserve samples.

Commenting Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “This survey reveals the shocking levels of abuse and variety of assaults London’s bus drivers face as part of their job in keeping London moving.

“No one should have to put up with being spat at, verbally abused or physically assaulted. The job of a London bus driver is stressful enough.

“While drivers may be partially protected by screens in their cab, spit can protrude through small holes in the screen. The common expectation that drivers should carry on with driving duties with spit either on these screens or within the bus is unacceptable and a serious health concern for bus drivers and passengers alike.

“More needs to be done by bus operators to support drivers who are assaulted and they need the confidence that when they report it action will be taken against perpetrators.

“This means paid time off to report assaults, spit kits in every bus and a zero tolerance approach to any form of assaults. London’s bus drivers are too often overlooked and their important role as the face of London’s transport taken for granted. It’s time that the capital’s bus drivers were treated with respect.”


For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.