Socialist Worker

Battle on for safety after London bus driver’s death

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2726

Driving a bus should not be a death sentence

Driving a bus should not be a death sentence (Pic:

London bus workers were furious last week as driver Kofi Opoku died from Covid-19.

He worked for Metrobus out of the Croydon garage in south London. He joins at least 28 other bus workers in the capital who have died from coronavirus.

John Murphy, Unite union lead officer for London buses, said, “The death is a terrible reminder of the horrible human cost of Covid-19.”

He called on bus firms to introduce stricter safety measures, including screens for workers, a review of cleaning regimes, and for health and safety reps to be stood down from normal duties.

“It is distressing that some bus operators seem to be more concerned about the financial cost of some of these vital measures,” he said. “Exactly what value are they placing on a human life?

“We simply do not have time on our side. We need these measures to be introduced immediately to save lives.”

Rising Covid-19 cases mean bus workers are facing even more dangerous conditions at work.


Yet bosses at a major London operator want to put in place measures that make it even more unsafe for drivers.

Workers are currently balloting over whether to take action against plans by Metroline to introduce “remote sign on”.

This is when bus drivers begin and end their shifts at random bus stops and don’t go into a bus depot before beginning their shift.

Unite members are hoping for a Yes in their strike ballot over "remote sign on". They say it cuts across a number of safety measures designed to protect them and passengers.

The union said there will be no checks to ensure the driver is fit to drive, workers will suffer from a lack of access to toilet facilities, rest and canteen facilities.

Fatigue is likely to increase as drivers will be driving for longer each day, and their travel time will be increased.

Workers will be forced to wait for their bus in cold and wet conditions, and they will suffer a greater risk of being exposed to Covid-19 as they will have to travel by public transport to a remote location.

The ballot is set to close on 26 October. Workers should battle to get a strong result against this attack on their conditions and safety.

Leeds bus builders plan strikes to win pay justice

Workers at a bus manufacturer in Sherburn in Elmet, near Leeds, were preparing to strike this week because bosses have broken their promises to give a pay increase.

The Unite union members at Optare voted by 73 percent to strike.

They were set to stage the first 48-hour walkout from Thursday this week.

They will begin a continuous overtime ban at the same time.

Workers plan one 48-hour strike every week for the next three weeks.

More than 100 workers are taking action because bosses have refused to honour a pledge made in August 2019 to implement a pay rise by November of that year.

Richard Bedford, Unite regional officer, said, “The situation has been made worse because staff agreed to defer pay negotiations on a number of occasions at the company’s request.

“Their good faith has been rewarded with the runaround resulting in a complete refusal to provide the promised pay increase.”

Optare is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the hugely profitable Ashok Leyland.

Its bosses put out a press release saying, “The company is urging the Unite union to reconsider demands for a pay rise at a time when other automotive manufacturers are cutting thousands of jobs.”

That echoes the line that workers must accept pay cuts or lose jobs.



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