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From: The Socialist issue 1016, 31 October 2018: Only a socialist alternative can end austerity

Search site for keywords: Buses - London - Drivers - Unite - Technology - Transport

Driving London's buses - a laser in the eye and a boot up the bum!

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)

London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

A London bus driver and Unite union member

Why are drivers involved in road traffic incidents often tired? Transport for London (TfL) could ask the real bus experts - the drivers!

We're under pressure from the intensity of work and long hours. For example, drivers working five-and-a-half hours continuously before having a legal 30-minute break.

The bosses' solution to driver tiredness isn't shorter hours. They want to introduce a camera where a laser points at the driver's eyes to detect tiredness and the seat vibrates to wake the driver up. A laser in the eye and a boot up the bum!

TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan have plans to eliminate injuries and deaths on the bus network by 2030. Unfortunately, the private bus companies which operate routes are only interested in profits.

Last year a report by the London Assembly into bus safety said: "TfL's mantra 'safety is our top priority' appears not to be the reality. Instead, TfL encourages bus operators to make punctuality their top priority."

Some bus companies have "remote sign-on" plans. Instead of the bus depot, the driver starts from the changeover point. That means not being aware of any notices such as diversions, not being able to discuss with colleagues or station staff, and travelling in their own time in order to maximise driving time.

We should be consulted on any changes to our terms and conditions. In fact, there should be democratic workers' control of our employment conditions. It's no surprise that these attacks are taking place as the Tory government removes funding to TfL - which Khan is allowing to go through.

Tom Kearney - a bus crash survivor now campaigning for safety along with bus drivers - was correct that it's not a technology issue but an issue of lack of toilets, long hours, failed air conditioning in bus cabs and the way the employers treat bus drivers.

Safety will always be compromised until Unite's policy of public ownership is implemented.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 31 October 2018

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