Add news
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021
12345678910111213141516
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
News Every Day |

Bus drivers ‘worked with Covid while battling for sick pay’

A Transport for London (TfL) London Bus driver, wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, drives their bus in London on April 6, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in hospital on Monday undergoing tests after suffering
Some bus drivers say they worked with Covid due to a delay in sick pay for them (Picture: Getty Images)

Bus drivers have claimed they were forced to work with Covid during the pandemic as they battle for recognition, lost pay and improved conditions.

Throughout England’s lockdowns, transport staff have continued to operate as normal, often at risk to themselves. But despite their efforts, they claim they’ve struggled with poor Covid protection, cuts to pay, unsafe working practices and an ongoing lack of toilet facilities available for them to use.

Data from the Office for National Statistics in 2020 revealed bus drivers were one of 17 specific occupations with the highest Covid death rates among men.

James Rossi, who has been a driver for more than 11 years and works in north London, believes he caught the virus in March. He asked about sick pay at the time and claims he was told they were still ‘working on it’.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘I was exhausted. I think it was the third week, I had heavy breathing at night and my lungs felt heavy. That’s how I knew I had it.

‘That period, I think it was five weeks, I isolated myself as much as possible. But you can’t have five weeks with no pay. There are bills that still have to be paid.

‘After I got over the virus they told me, good news, we’ve arranged the sick pay. I was thinking, that’s a bit late for us lot isn’t it. Even if we had had the time off, the money wouldn’t have been backdated.

James Rossi driving a London bus
James Rossi is campaigning for bus drivers to be recognised as skilled workers (Picture: James Rossi)

‘I found out later around 20 or 30 other drivers were in similar situations, where they also ended up working through it.’

Alex Flynn*, who drives buses in North West England, told Metro.co.uk that his colleagues who suffered Covid symptoms didn’t isolate unless until they received a positive test result.

He said: ‘If you went off for a test you were supposed to isolate until you’d had the results back, but then you wouldn’t get paid for those days. If you test negative, you would have lost those two days essentially.

‘It didn’t help anyone who wanted to do the right thing and get tested. We had one incident of a driver coming into work after his test and later finding he was positive.’

Bus drivers are often incentivised to work weekends and rest days to boost their salaries, with both James and Alex stating that they have around two to five days off a month.

However, the pandemic saw some operators impose Sunday schedules on drivers while paying lower weekday rates, resulting in workers losing as much as 25% of their pay. This meant those affected earned less than those on furlough.

James believes he has lost around £2,500 due to the pandemic, while Ian Cowan*, a driver in West Yorkshire, told Metro.co.uk he had been left £1,800 out of pocket so-far.

Drivers from at least four bus companies are now threatening strike action this year, over lost pay and other issues, such as remote sign on and a lack of toilet facilities available to staff.

Buses in Manchester
Drivers say they have lost pay despite working throughout the pandemic (Picture: Getty Images)

Remote sign on sees drivers meet their buses outside of the garage along their route, meaning they start their shifts without rest areas, bathrooms, or canteen space. They are also put at an increased risk of Covid-19 by travelling to and from the remote locations.

Alex said there are very few terminuses on his routes where he is able to use a bathroom. He went on: ‘For a while we had nowhere to go to the toilet in Liverpool. We had nowhere to wash our hands or anything.

‘The problem is the health and safety structures for bus drivers were never there before. They didn’t take it seriously pre-Covid – and now they’re being found wanting.’

Often public toilets inside a station are the only facilities available to bus drivers. James said these can sometimes be unnecessarily out of use.

The problem is the health and safety structures for bus drivers were never there before. They didn’t take it seriously pre-Covid – and now they’re being found wanting.

He said: ‘I recently tried to use a station bathroom and both the men’s and women’s were locked due to a toilet being blocked in the women’s. I asked the station controller and he said it was because the women might go into the men’s.

‘It’s common practice in London. They’ve been doing it for years. They shut them all while they call an engineer out to solve an issue in one cubicle.’

James is now one of many drivers calling for public transport staff to receive better conditions and and be permanently recognised by the government as skilled and key workers once the pandemic ends.

He noted that members of the public had become more appreciative of drivers during England’s first lockdown – but by December people were back to being ‘abusive and aggressive’ again.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Steve Taylor/SOPA Images/REX (10623800b) A bus driver wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus drives on the street of London during the coronavirus lockdown. 20 bus workers have so far died from Covid-19 pandemic. A Bus Driver Wears a Face Mask in London, UK - 24 Apr 2020
Strike action could take place in the coming weeks (Picture: Rex)

James said: ‘If the buses went down, could the tubes manage it? No they couldn’t. But if the tube goes down, the bus drivers always step up and keep the service going.

‘We interact with passengers daily, and we are constantly dealing with situations. You might have a kid out of control screaming, you’ll have to step out the cab and politely ask them to calm down.

‘With Covid, we’re not allowed to enforce face masks, but it’s up to me to decide when my bus is becoming so full it’s unsafe. I might also pull over until someone abusive gets off. We have a lot of responsibility and we are key workers.’

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said the union takes allegations, such as those over sick pay, ‘very seriously’. He went on: ‘The onus is on the bus companies’ managements, as an responsible employer, to look after the safety and welfare of bus drivers, whether it is provision of adequate toilet facilities or proper levels of sick pay, during this continuing pandemic.’

He added: ‘Unite has been lobbying the government and the employers for some time to provide a proper national network of toilet facilities as it is unrealistic to expect bus drivers to have a long shift without adequate toilet breaks.

‘We are also currently balloting a number of our London bus drivers for industrial action over the issue of remote sign-ins.

‘It is paramount that bus drivers, who have to self-isolate because of coronavirus,  should not lose out when it comes to wages. Employees, who are sick, should not feel pressured to come to work because of financial considerations – that is not in the interests of public health at this time of national emergency.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: ‘We’re hugely grateful to our frontline bus drivers and staff across the country who are doing an amazing job to keep bus and coach services running to enable essential journeys, such as those made by NHS staff and other key workers.

‘It is the responsibility of transport operators to ensure the welfare of their employees, and the Department will continue to engage with operators and representatives to ensure driver welfare is a priority.’

*Names have been changed.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.





Read also

CDC Lyme disease funding hits $16M to combat tick-borne disease in Upstate NY

Who is Robin Johnstone and is the Dancing On Ice pro married to Andy Buchanan?

'Blood is on your hands': GOP lawmaker slammed by longtime friend for inciting Capitol violence




News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on Today24.pro



Today24.pro — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here