The UK’s largest trade union has pledged to demand more safety measures on London buses after a south London driver died with Covid-19, writes Kit Heren…
Kofi Opoku, who worked for Metrobus from a garage in Croydon, died last week after testing positive for the virus.
Male bus drivers are reportedly among the groups that are most vulnerable to Covid-19. At least 29 are thought to have died after contracting the disease.
After Mr Opoku’s death, Unite, which represents more than 20,000 London bus workers, said it had met with the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London to raise concerns about drivers’ safety amid the pandemic.
The union said its demands included making sure protective screens and seals are properly installed, health and safety reps are stood down from normal duties to monitor safety in garages.
They added that they wanted cleaning regimes to be reviewed and beefed up after some workers raised concerns.
Access to toilets and hand-washing facilities, full sick pay from day one for workers that have to self-isolate, a moratorium on remote sign-on and proper enforcement of face coverings and caps on passenger numbers were also among Unite’s demands.
“The death of Kofi Opoku is a terrible reminder of the horrible human cost of Covid-19. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time,” John Murphy, the union’s lead officer for London buses said.
“With infection rates rising swiftly and the knowledge we have gained from the first wave, it is absolutely essential that all these safety measures are introduced to protect bus drivers and their passengers.
“During the first lockdown London bus drivers played a vital role in keeping the capital moving and for that too many paid the ultimate price.
“Significant safety procedures have been already introduced, but action needs to be taken to reinforce those measures.
“It is distressing that some bus operators seem to be more concerned about the financial cost of some of these vital measures. 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 reduce the risk of infections and to save lives.”
Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said: “Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Kofi Opoku at this awful time.
“We will continue to do everything that is humanly possible to protect transport workers and customers. This is why we worked with Unite to deliver safety improvements and continue to work closely with them to ensure drivers continue to be as safe as possible while at work.
“All bus operators have safety measures in place, which includes a relentless focus on cleaning and the introduction of long-lasting anti-viral cleaning fluid. To give drivers extra reassurance this is happening, we will carry out inspections at sites where concerns are raised.”