Transport union RMT has called on the government to ensure that its support for the regional bus industry during the coronavirus epidemic will be used to protect workers and maintain services. The regional bus support package announced on Friday 3 April will total £167 million across the industry over the next three months.
The call came as the Unite union announced that five London bus drivers had died of coronavirus. More have died since then. “Unite has been working continuously with Transport for London (TfL) and the operators to ensure the safety of drivers and others in the industry who are performing a heroic job in getting NHS and care workers to their places of work,” said regional secretary Peter Kavanagh.
“Buses are an essential service being run for and by frontline workers. It is therefore crucial bus services are safeguarded whilst the health risk to both the workers that run the buses and the passengers who have to travel are kept to an absolute minimum,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash on 3 April.
Cash noted that while the rail industry is at least seeking to adopt a joined-up approach to the coronavirus crisis, the national bus industry in contrast is “a complete free for all”.
The union is wary of the privatised bus and train companies’ pursuit of profit. It noted that on 11 March – the day that the 8th British citizen died of coronavirus – a conference call for FirstGroup investors heard company chair say, “At the moment, in my experience, this is one of the most exciting times, with potentially real deliverables there and money standing behind it.”
• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.