Union seeks better COVID protection as another driver dies


The Unite union has said it will to escalate its campaign for stricter safety measures on London buses after it emerged that one of its members died from COVID-19 earlier this week.

The union said Kofi Opoku worked for Metrobus and was based at the Croydon garage.


It added that the issue of bus driver safety is particularly sensitive as during the height of the pandemic earlier this year male London bus drivers were the profession at greatest risk of dying from COVID-19, with at least 29 losing their lives to the virus.

The union, which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, said it has met with both mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) about its continuing concerns ‘that there needs to be a concerted effort and urgent action to further improve bus safety, in order to better protect drivers and passengers, as the virus continues to spread’.

It said its key concerns include ensuring that all screens and seals are properly installed; that health and safety reps are stood down from normal duties to monitor safety in garages; and that a full review and enhancement of cleaning regimes are carried out.

The union said that both Mr Khan and TfL have the power and the authority to ensure that all London bus operators comply with these measures.

Unite lead officer for London buses, John Murphy said: ‘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.

‘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.

‘Significant safety procedures have been already introduced, but action needs to be taken to reinforce those measures.’

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.'

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