March 28th, 2010
UK bus driver working times need to be cut on safety grounds
25th March 2010
Unite, the largest union in the country, has launched a campaign to shave at least an hour off the driving time of the UK’s bus drivers on grounds of safety, and with no loss of pay.
100,000 Unite members are being mobilised around a Bus workers’ Charter that puts similar demands for improvements to working conditions for all workers in the sector, including ancillary staff, such as maintenance and clerical staff, and even tram workers.
Unite’s campaign is mainly aimed at bringing bus drivers into line with the rest of the European Union (EU). Ironically, UK coach and road haulage drivers currently enjoy the protection of the EU regulations.
Unite wants this anomaly ironed out and has written to Simon Posner, chief executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) UK, the trade association for the industry, for talks on this issue. The CPT has responded that it will not negotiate, putting the ball back in the union’s court.
A major campaign to involve union members in winning support amongst the public is to ensue and even a national ballot across the industry to determine how Unite’s members want to act has not been ruled out.
Unite’s national organiser for the transport sector, Graham Stevenson, said: ”British bus drivers are presently driving longer than their European counterparts. This is wrong on grounds of safety because the deepening congestion on Britain’s roads makes their job increasingly stressful and hazardous.“
The British Driving Hours Regulations currently provide for bus drivers to work for up to five and a half hours without any breaks, and up to 16 hours in a whole day. To conform to the spirit of EU regulations, Unite wants:
- a maximum single piece of driving duty not to exceed four and a half hours
- a maximum length of driving time of no more than eight hours in one day
- a maximum of ten hours total working time in any one day.
The union acknowledges that employers will argue that the cost to introduce such reforms will be expensive.
But Graham Stevenson argues: ”You can’t put a financial price on the safety of drivers and the millions of passengers they carry throughout the year – the most precious cargo of all. In any case, if all operators apply the same decent rules, this will cost all of them equally – and shorter driving spells will inhibit a race to the bottom, which has finally got so bad as to force our members to say enough is enough.”