More than 20 drivers at the Brighton & Hove Bus Company have been assaulted by members of the public while at work over the last year. Recent evidence shows that this situation is only getting worse.
These attacks have ranged from being punched and kicked to being threatened with knives, and come on top of the daily verbal abuse that our drivers endure.
Only last week the GMB union was told of three assaults taking place, the most despicable of which involved urine being thrown at a driver.
Being assaulted at work is a risk that is faced by all of our public servants. There is a legal obligation on the employer to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff. The types of action that can be taken are either deterrent or preventative.
Examples of deterrent action are working to ensure that those carrying out the assaults are prosecuted, the installation of CCTV systems to aid in this prosecution, and encouraging the criminal justice system to pass a heavy judgment on those convicted.
These are measures that have been tried and, given the huge increases in assaults taking place, we can see that they are not working.
As such the most important thing that the employer can do is to take measures that prevent the attacks happening in the first place.
The GMB believes that at the Brighton and Hove Bus Company the best way of doing this is by the installation of protective screens to form a barrier between the driver and the public.
This has happened in other cities, and in London you will not find a single bus that does not have a protective screen installed.
The GMB has launched a campaign for all buses within Brighton and Hove to be fitted with these screens but we have been told that this cannot happen on the grounds of cost.
The managing director of the company has said that all new buses will have the screens fitted. However he has refused to commit to fitting them to existing vehicles due to cost and a belief that the installation of screens will cause screen glare and rattling.
But no cost to the company is worth the risk of another assault taking place. In terms of screen glare we would ask why this would be case when screens on newer buses do not cause this problem?
With regard to rattles the company should invest in ways of installing the screens so that this does not happen.
If the company continues to maintain that screens cannot be fitted to older buses then they should immediately commit to only running a new fleet that has the screens pre-installed.
It is our belief that each day that the company delays the installation of these screens is another day that one of our members is at risk.
The GMB will be continuing its campaign and we would ask the public to support us by writing to the company to encourage them to do the right thing. We have written to the health and safety executive to ask them to intervene and we will be assisting our members with legal claims against the company.
When travelling on a bus in Brighton, or elsewhere, we would ask the public to bear in mind the difficulties of the job that drivers do and to show them some support.
Send messages of protest to Brighton & Hove Bus Company, 43 Conway St, Brighton BN3 3LT
Drivers in the Unite union at Transdev Sovereign in north west London voted at a general meeting last week to send what one union member described as 'a letter of hostility' to management.
The letter will say that the drivers will take strike action if the company does not agree to meet the union over drivers' pay. Drivers also passed a no confidence vote in the union convenor who they say is not standing up to management.
Sovereign drivers struck over pay at the beginning of January. They are the lowest paid drivers in London.
The union at the company’s Harrow garage won concessions last week in a separate dispute over rota changes.