Bus passengers in South and West London face disruption and delays this winter as drivers at Abellio ballot for industrial action in a dispute over shifts.

Scheduling agreement

The dispute relates to the company’s scheduling agreement, which establishes a driver’s shift patterns for a year. Under the existing agreement with Unite, the UK’s leading union, the union elects scheduling reps who are fully consulted on changes to drivers’ schedules.

However, Abellio has now centralised its scheduling system and has failed to consult Unite on many of the changes taking place. This has resulted in drivers facing life changing alterations to schedules, such as one, who has worked mornings for a decade, now being placed on permanent late duties and nights.

Ballot to begin

Over 950 drivers at Abellio will be balloted for strike action. The ballot opens on Wednesday 24 November and closes on Tuesday 21 December. Strikes could begin immediately after Christmas.

The dispute effects both the company’s subsidiaries Abellio London Ltd and Abellio West London Ltd and it involves the drivers at six depots: Battersea, Beddington, Hayes, Southall, Twickenham and Walworth.

Unite believes that the scheduling agreement is no longer fit for purpose and that it is greatly increasing levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety and sickness among drivers. Unite believes that it is also contributing to driver retention problems at Abellio.

Not fit for purpose

Unite regional officer Guy Langston said: “The scheduling agreement is not fit for purpose. Workers are having their lives turned upside down and are being given shift patterns which will simply make them ill.

“Unite has attempted to resolve this matter through discussion but Abellio isn’t listening. As a result, Unite’s members believe that they have no option but to ballot for industrial action.

“Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption for passengers across South and West London but this dispute is directly a result of Abellio’s failure to negotiate. Strike action can still be avoided if Abellio accepts its scheduling agreement has failed and enters into detailed talks with Unite to resolve the issue.”

Loughborough Report

The Loughborough Report, the academic report which examined the fatigue issues of London bus drivers, identified schedules and rotas as a major cause of the problem.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.