Bus workers are speaking out about their “fear and anger” as transport bosses move too slowly to protect their safety.
London bus driver Trevor said, “It’s a life and death situation here. Not everyone’s immune system is going to be able to hack it—some will come out of it and some won’t.”
With at least 15 bus drivers in the capital dying after testing positive for Covid-19, workers live in fear every day of catching it, or passing it on.
“There are a lot of drivers who live with and look after their elderly parents—they’re really worried they’re going out to work, catching the virus, going home and infecting other people,” said Trevor.
He told Socialist Worker he knew some drivers were living in their garden sheds to avoid passing on infection to their family members.
“They have their food dropped off there—but they have to go into the house to take a shower. But they’re more worried about their wives and kids.”
Transport for London (TfL) said that all buses in the capital would have the front doors sealed off from Monday of this week. Passengers will board from the middle or back doors.
But TfL bosses have been reluctant to rollout the changes as it will make travel free.
“It feels like we’re sleepwalking into the slaughterhouse—a lot of people are scared,” driver Jeff told Socialist Worker.
“It’s all about the companies making a profit, and that comes before our health. There are a lot of games being played and it comes at the cost of drivers’ lives.
“They’re not taking it seriously because it’s going to cost them money—but one bus driver’s life is priceless, any human being’s life is.”
Trade unionists gathered near Holloway bus garage in Islington, north London, on Thursday last week to demand protective clothing for all drivers.
Richard, a driver at the garage, told Socialist Worker that workers supported the action but felt they couldn’t be part of it.
“People wanted to be involved but management and the union are against something happening at the garage,” he said.
“Workers are scared to talk, but drivers that were told about it were pleased.
“They wanted to go out there and talk but you’ve got one of the directors out there, and management too—they’re standing there watching.”
Trevor called on TfL to implement random inspections on garages to ensure that company bosses are complying with safety regulations.
“If companies don’t follow through, they should penalise them,” he said.
Many workers are furious that the Tory government was slow to act over mass testing, social distancing measures and providing PPE.
“Boris Johnson is directly responsible and should be held accountable for these deaths,” said Jeff. “He chose to carry on as though nothing was happening.”
Richard said changes across the network are coming too slowly.
“At this point, I don’t understand why Unite are so close to Transport for London,” he said. “They need to be standing up more to management and demanding—not negotiating—more safety for the workers.”
Unions have been slow to make demands—they need to say loud and clear to bosses that workers won’t work without protective kit.