Unite the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has warned London bus operators not to engage in a ‘race to the bottom’, in degrading drivers’ conditions.

Unite warning

Unite’s warning coincides with the union gearing up to hold a consultative ballot, of all London bus driver members, this Friday (7 February) over long hours, fatigue and exhaustion. If members vote in favour of industrial action then a full postal ballot will follow and could lead to mass strike action across London.

The warning to bus companies not to engage in a race to the bottom follows the revelation that the East London Bus Company, which is owned by Stagecoach, is currently in the process of trying to force its drivers onto a rota where they will work five weekends in a row before having one weekend off.

Long shifts 

Another east London based bus company is also forcing workers on to 62.5 hour spread-over shifts, in a five day period. The driver undertakes 43 hours of driving during this time and can be left standing by the kerbside for four hours at a time during gaps in their shifts.

With rival bus companies bidding for routes under compulsory competitive tendering rules, Unite is concerned that other operators will follow the East London Bus Company’s lead to try to prevent it gaining a commercial advantage.

Unite is demanding that bus operators stop blaming drivers for the chronic level of fatigue they suffer. Instead Unite is seeking to ensure that radical action is taken to improve scheduling, ensuring drivers finish on time, take all of their rest breaks, have sufficient running time, receive proper training and are treated with respect.

Historic stand

Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “Bus drivers will be taking a historic stand against fatigue and exhaustion this week. Providing drivers vote yes, Unite will swiftly move towards a full industrial action ballot.

 “Given the fact that academic research has found that bus drivers are exhausted and are at risk of becoming a danger to other road users, passengers and themselves it is astonishing that the East London Bus Company is seeking to force drivers to undertake even more exhausting work patterns.

 “Bus operators need to understand that not only will Unite not allow a further attack on drivers’ conditions, but that workers are fully prepared to take industrial action to end work-related fatigue.

 “The senior management at all London bus operators must stop doing an impression of an ostrich and instead recognise this is a massive problem for drivers and take co-ordinated action to resolve the issue.

 “The hours and work life balance of London bus drivers are so poor that it is causing serious damage to their physical and mental health and to their relationships.

 “Such a situation is intolerable and drivers are demanding that action to resolve this is taken now.”


Notes to editors:

For further information go to the Sick and Tired campaign page

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.

London facing standstill as exhausted bus drivers prepare for strike action

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

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