Transport for London (TfL) has ‘left workers to fend for themselves’ during the coronavirus pandemic – but many fear they will lose their jobs if they speak out, a bus driver has claimed.
The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, told Metro.co.uk that many buses are ‘not being cleaned at all’ and shared images of sections of their bus covered in liquid stains, cobwebs, dust and dirt after it was supposed have been disinfected the night before.
They claimed staff are being discouraged from self-isolating if they have Covid-19-like symptoms and told to come into work. The driver added workers ‘have had to do whatever we can’ to stop passengers sitting on the front row of seats by blocking them off with electrical or construction tape.
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But the driver, who works for a bus company in the Kingston area of south-west London, said the alleged poor safeguarding measures ‘appear to be a London-wide issue’.
They added: ‘TFL are giving lip service to the media that they are looking after bus drivers as a “caring organisation”.
‘It is insulting that Sadiq Khan can publicly state he is devastated at the death of our colleagues when it feels like TfL has left us to fend for ourselves’.
‘Drivers are being discouraged from self-isolating by office staff claiming their symptoms are merely hay fever or a common cold and to come into work,’ they added.
‘Neither TFL nor the bus company are telling staff if someone is confirmed as having Covid-19 within the workplace for “privacy reasons,” meaning we could be within contact of someone and not know, which is concerning for us and our immediate family’.
In a bid to slow the spread of the virus, the number of bus journeys has been reduced by about 85 per cent, said TfL.
Mr Khan and TfL insisted ‘extensive’ daily cleaning is carried out across staff facilities and buses, with touch points, like steering wheels and poles, wiped down with antiviral cleaner. Announcements have also been put up to encourage social distancing, while there is perspex glass between the driver and passenger.
However, the driver said workers are having to use their own cling film or Sellotape to block holes in the perspex screen, but are unable to cover the large void near the ticket machine and Oyster reader leaving them open to infection.
Other employees said they have been forced to do the same and shared images on social media.
‘We also have the same issues with buses not being cleaned at all, let alone a deep clean,’ said the driver.
‘The cleaners sweep large bits of rubbish off the bus only – rarely do they mop it but if they do, it’s with the same water and mop for most of the night. The cleaners stand around in groups ignoring social distancing which forces drivers to walk between them…
‘Most of us are having to buy our own antibacterial wipes to clean contact areas within the cab just to protect ourselves the best we can’.
They also raised concerns over a lack of hand sanitiser, claiming only the ‘lucky ones’ are provided with a small 50ml bottle. Another driver, who wrote exclusively for Metro.co.uk, echoed the same issues and said staff ‘haven’t been given any proper protection’.When will Universal Credit and Child Benefit be paid over Easter?
The driver said staff facilities have deteriorated amid the lockdown, adding that toilets are ‘constantly running out of soap’.
‘Breaks are being spent sat at bus stops or on stands as there is a lack of facilities for staff to have hot food, or even a hot drink in some cases,’ the driver added, but said they can’t report the issue as bus station controllers have been removed.
They added: ‘This can be confirmed by speaking to any driver in the Kingston area, however many of us are concerned about losing our jobs by highlighting these contradictions against TFL and the companies who employ us’.
TfL said it continues to work with Unite the Union and bus operators to enhance safety measures. It added it is ‘funding enhanced sick pay’ for bus staff who are self-isolating or suffering from symptoms.
Director of Bus Operations, Claire Mann, told Metro.co.uk: ‘I’d like to assure London’s bus drivers, who are playing such a vital role allowing critical workers to fight the virus, that we are committed to their safety. It is our absolute priority. We continue to work closely with bus operators, the Mayor and Unite the Union and have already delivered enhanced cleaning of all buses, improved distancing from drivers and are working to make the driver’s cab more protected.
‘Hard-working transport staff are on the frontline of the coronavirus effort, keeping the city moving so that nurses, doctors and other key workers can get where they need to be.
‘Our clear message to Londoners is simple – the transport network is only for critical workers who need to make absolutely essential journeys. Please, everyone else, stay at home, don’t travel and save lives.’
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