Socialist Worker

Bus drivers striking for a break

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2132

Some 250 drivers at First Hampshire and Dorset, based in Southampton, are set to hold two one-day strikes in the run-up to Christmas, with a third strike set for the new year.

The bus workers, members of the Unite union, are to strike on Saturday and on Monday of next week, and on Monday 5 January, in a dispute over break times.

Unite says that many drivers find that they have as little as ten minutes rest time during a full day’s driving – causing stress and fatigue for the driver and putting bus passengers and other road users at risk.

The company insists that it allows drivers at least the legal minimum of a 30 minute break – but the union points out that this includes the time the driver takes to cash up, answer any queries from passengers and walk to the staff canteen.

If a bus comes in late this puts even more pressure on break times, meaning drivers doing two four-hour shifts sometimes end up with only ten minutes to rest between shifts.

The workers originally voted to strike at the beginning of December but action was postponed after management challenged the ballot – claiming that the union had not notified the company in the required time.

Drivers were then reballoted – with a two to one majority in favour of strikes.

The issue of break times is a key question in the industry, with drivers everywhere working longer and longer hours under increasing pressure.

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