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LONDON bus drivers warned their bosses today to stop ignoring “degrading” and “intolerable” working conditions, as they prepared to ballot for strike action.
Unite members urged firms not to continue a race to the bottom as the East London Bus Company, which is owned by the national operator Stagecoach, is currently trying to force its drivers onto a rota system whereby they work five consecutive weekends before having a weekend off.
The company’s management is also trying to force workers onto 65-hour “spread-over” shifts that could mean workers being left standing by bus stops for four hours at a time during gaps in their shifts.
Workers are also fearful that, due to compulsory competition laws on companies securing the right to run services, other bus-route operators will follow East London Bus Company’s lead in order to stop it gaining a commercial advantage.
The warning from workers comes as Unite’s 20,000 London bus drivers look set to hold a consultative ballot for industrial action relating to worries about exhaustion and workplace fatigue.
Last month, research from Loughborough University found that 36 per cent of bus drivers had narrowly avoided an accident because of fatigue in the previous year; 21 per cent said that they had to “fight sleepiness” on the job at least two to three times a week.
Unite regional officer John Murphy called the situation “degrading,” and said that senior managers must “recognise that this is a massive problem” for their employees.
He said that bus drivers would be taking a “historic stand” against fatigue and exhaustion this week and, providing drivers vote Yes, Unite would swiftly move towards a full industrial action ballot.
Mr Murphy said: “Bus operators need to understand that not only will Unite not allow a further attack on drivers’ conditions but that workers are fully prepared to take industrial action to end work-related fatigue.
“The hours and work-life balance of London bus drivers are so poor that it is causing serious damage to their physical and mental health and to their relationships.
“Such a situation is intolerable, and drivers are demanding that action to resolve this is taken now.”
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