Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is warning that London could face gridlock if exhausted bus drivers take industrial action later this year.
Unite will begin a consultative ballot of over 20,000 members employed as London bus drivers later this month and, provided a yes vote is secured, a full industrial action ballot will then follow.
The union is demanding that London bus operators and Transport for London (TfL) take decisive action to tackle chronic levels of fatigue being experienced by bus drivers.
In a recent Transport for London (TfL) report, which included a survey by Loughborough University, it found that 21% of bus driver respondents had to fight sleepiness two to three times a week.
The research also found that 17% of bus drivers admitted to falling asleep at least once whilst at the wheel.
Driver representatives are now demanding a revolution in how bus driving is scheduled to ensure that drivers can finish on time, are able to utilise all of their breaks, work to proper schedules, have enough running time to complete their journey, are treated with respect and receive proper training.
Since the publication of the Loughborough report, the union claims TfL has attempted to deflect responsibility for the fatigue being suffered by bus drivers and has said that it is the responsibility of individual bus operators to resolve the situation. Unite says that position is entirely unacceptable.
A separate survey of over 5,000 Unite bus driver members in September found 44 per cent of bus drivers work six days a week, and long hours created severe physical, mental and relationship problems. A total of 79 per cent of drivers reported that in the past year they had made errors while driving due to tiredness.
Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “London bus drivers have had enough; they are permanently fatigued and at risk of being a danger to other road users, bus passengers and themselves.
“Unite will shortly be conducting a consultative ballot and provided our members endorse industrial action, strikes will follow later this year unless action is taken to ensure that the problems causing chronic fatigue for our members are resolved.
“TfL cannot simply sweep this problem under the carpet. It must act decisively and stop trying to pass the problem onto bus operators who have consistently failed to resolve the issue and have instead allowed it to worsen.
“For the last 25 years bus operators have been failing to deal with this problem. Unite members are saying enough is enough.”
Only last month, the London Mayor distanced himself from conducting similar research into the levels of fatigue in the taxi and private hire industries. The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, did however acknowledge that there was likely to be a problem with fatigue and the 100,000 plus private hire drivers working on London’s roads.
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