The independent London newspaper

Bus drivers’ ‘remote sign on’ halted amid review

TfL to carry out independent research into changes that mean staff start work away from depot, after complaints over exhaustion and pay cuts

02 April, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

TRANSPORT for London (TfL) has paused bus drivers being able to sign in for work remotely after complaints of exhaustion among staff.

Trade union Unite is calling on the Metroline bus company to scrap plans to expand remote sign on, which has been trialled on the No 139 route.

Remote sign-on means drivers do not report to a depot to start work, but meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop.

Unite says this reduces costs and boosts the company’s profits while the driver is only paid for the time when they are actually behind the wheel.

It is believed to equate to an average 7 per cent cut in wages for affected workers.

Complaints were also raised over drivers going unpaid if a bus they are meeting is delayed, as well as being left out in the open in all weather.

TfL says it is carrying out an independent review into remote sign-on and will temporarily suspend the practice until the research is complete.

Meanwhile, Unite is balloting its 4,000 members at Metroline for industrial action. The ballot will close next Friday.

Unite regional officer Mary Summers, who represents Metroline staff, said: “Metroline workers are on the frontline of plans to introduce remote sign on in London.

“I am convinced that their anger and concern will be expressed in the ballot result due on April 9.

“An overwhelming vote in favour of strike action should shake some sense into Metroline, which needs to not just pause its remote sign on plans but discard them into the dustbin of history.”

John Murphy, Unite lead officer for London buses, added: “The moratorium on introducing remote sign on heads off the immediate threat of strike action across London. London bus workers, who were clapped as heroes and who saw too many of their colleagues die of Covid, are not prepared to see their pay slashed in real terms.

“Unite believes that the promised in-depth research that TfL has been mandated to undertake will reveal that remote sign on is bad news for drivers, detrimental to passengers and risks the safety of all road users.”

A Metroline spokesperson said: “We have sought to work very closely with Unite throughout the pandemic, a time during which many drivers chose to sign on remotely because it encourages social distancing.

“We categorically reject allegations that this could negatively impact safety. Our risk assessment shows there is no evidence of increased risk of exposure to Covid-19.

“TfL announced that it will be commissioning an independent report into remote sign on. Therefore, to support and assist this process and enable an independent and unbiased report, we unilaterally decided to pause introducing new mobile sign on procedures.

“We have been very clear throughout that we will only introduce remote sign on where there are suitable driver facilities including toilets, hot and cold water, and where possible, canteens.

“Remote sign-on will be voluntary, and because it provides flexibility, it’s an attractive choice for some of our drivers. We believe drivers will additionally benefit from improved work life balance and importantly, reduced fatigue.”


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