Drivers and passenger escorts on school buses for disabled children in Hackney are ‘the pathfinders’ in a national campaign to get a one-off £500 payment and an extra day’s holiday for risking their health working through the pandemic.

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said its members across England had rejected the now imposed national pay award of 2.75 per cent from April this year – and that’s why they were mounting local campaigns, of which Hackney in east London is the first.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The national cost of living rise for 2020 has now been settled and this has been reluctantly conceded by our members.

“However, we feel that many of the issues in the national claim, such as the working time and annual leave elements, remain outstanding - and that there is scope for negotiations with local council employers.

“Our 32 driver and passenger escorts employed by Hackney council are the ‘pathfinders’ for the national campaign.

“They will be balloted for strike action later this month as the bosses have reneged on an earlier local deal which would have given them a lump sum and made agency workers permanent employees.

“Also, our Hackney members have serious concerns about Covid-19 safety measures on buses – specifically, buses with a capacity of 30 have over 20 children on them. There is no social distancing and also the ‘bubbles’ that are in force in schools are broken on buses where new ‘bubbles’ are formed.

“Our members across the England have shown bravery putting their health at risk during the pandemic to ensure those children with disabilities were delivered and collected from school safely.”

Unite is seeking nationally:

  • A one-off £500 payment for frontline workers to compensate for the added pressures of working throughout the pandemic.
  • A reduction of the working week to 35 hours from 36 with no loss of pay (pro rata for part time staff).
  • An extra day of holiday, dependent on service.

Onay Kasab added: “Unite believes that these claims are reasonable and achievable and, in fact, several councils have already implemented these polices in part and for a limited period.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

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