Bus drivers: We deserve to be key workers
Campaign for recognition after role ‘keeping capital moving’ during pandemic
13 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
James Rossi says the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the ‘vital role’ played by bus drivers, arguing they should be awarded ‘skilled and key worker’ status
BUS drivers have launched a petition to be recognised permanently as “key workers” after the Covid-19 pandemic “highlighted” the “vital role” they play in society.
James Rossi, who drives the No 340, started the petition, which now has almost 6,000 signatures, after he heard a BBC report which described bus drivers as “low-skilled” workers.
He told the Tribune: “It’s about treating us with dignity. The pandemic has highlighted our vital role and it’s about time the government and TfL [Transport for London] officially recognised it as well.
“We’ve kept London moving through this whole situation and put our health at risk. In the first wave we lost more than 20 drivers. We deserve better.”
Mr Rossi said he hopes permanent “skilled and key worker” status will help them negotiate better pay and working conditions with TfL and the bus companies.
Stephen O’Rourke, who drives the W7 out of Holloway Bus Garage, said: “To be fair, I don’t think anybody is happy with working conditions at the moment because there has been so much uncertainty going around.
“I don’t think you will find a bus driver who says they are happy. When so many of us died at the beginning of the pandemic we just decided enough is enough.
“We’re not going to be treated like this any more and getting skilled worker status is a step in the right direction.”
Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operations, said: “London’s bus drivers have been heroes during the pandemic, keeping the network moving for those that need it. We would welcome greater recognition of their importance.”
An Office for National Statistics spokesman said: “ONS is responsible for the Standard Occupational Classification, under which bus drivers are regarded as part of the second skill level, jobs which require not only the knowledge provided via a good general education but which typically have a period of work-related training or work experience. We are not responsible for the designation of key workers, however.”
The Tribune contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, believed to be in charge of designating key worker status, but they did not respond by the time we went to press.
Bus drivers in the capital spend more than two years training to be qualified, taking three theory and two practical tests before they can go out on the road.