Assaults on bus drivers in Bristol and throughout the south west won’t be tolerated as these key workers maintain services during the pandemic, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 3 September).

Unite reiterated its ‘zero tolerance’ call after two bus drivers in Bristol, employed by First Bus, were assaulted in separate incidents earlier this week. The union has thousands of bus worker members throughout the south west region.

Unite understands that the police were called to both incidents and that arrests have been made – one of the assaults came after the driver declined to open the door to the alleged assailant as the bus was full. One driver was based at the Lawrence Hill depot and the other at the Hengrove depot in the city.

Unite said the physical attacks were the first on its bus driver members in Bristol, although there had been many verbal diatribes directed towards them during the pandemic.

Unite regional officer Brett Sparkes said: “After the assaults the drivers were taken to hospital for medical checks, including for Covid-19 and HIV. The buses involved have also been thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated which was overseen by our health & safety rep.

“As this is now a police matter I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the incidents, however we unreservedly condemn all attacks, whether physical and/or verbal, against key workers.

“These workers, employed by bus companies, the NHS, local government and supermarkets, have kept vital services running smoothly during the continuing pandemic.

“We call on the justice system to take a strong line on such assaults – our frontline key workers deserve no less. Bristol’s dedicated bus drivers are important cogs in the transport system as more people return to work in offices, schools and businesses throughout the south west.”

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “Unfortunately, the reported incidents are not isolated events – we have other such assaults reported by our members across the UK.

“For the last six weeks, we have been asking the government and the bus operators to monitor the number of passengers getting on buses, as many people are ignoring the instruction to wear face coverings on public transport.

“Despite Unite’s repeated calls for the government and bus managers to police what’s happening as more people travel to return to work, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“Ministers and the bus companies need to step up to the plate to ensure the public complies with the instruction to wear face coverings on public transport.

“We have 80,000 public transport workers across the country and Unite won’t tolerate such attacks on our members doing their best for the travelling public in exceptional and difficult circumstances.

“Unite’s officers and reps are working closely with the respective bus company managements to reduce the risk of assaults as far as humanely possible. We also strongly support the swift prosecution of all alleged offenders by the courts.”


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.

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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.