High levels of bus driver abuse, Unite survey shows

A survey by trade union Unite has found 82% of its bus driver respondents were subject to abuse last year. The study also suggested the same percentage of participants reported the incidents negatively impacted their mental wellbeing.

Over half of those questioned said they did not report incidents to their employer. Those that did were not satisfied with the response, according to the study.

The research follows the union’s demands for stronger legal protection for bus drivers after a fatal assault in Scotland last month. Since then, Unite has repeated its calls for legislation to be enacted, which makes it a specific offence to assault, threaten or abuse transport staff at work.

The union is also ensuring operators implement safeguarding policies for bus drivers, particularly following late or early shifts where drivers find themselves isolated. In light of 79% of drivers stating that abuse has increased in the last year, the union is also applying direct pressure on operators to radically change their attitudes and stamp out the acceptance of abuse as part of the job.

“No one should feel unsafe at work” – Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “No one should feel unsafe at work. Our research highlights that it is all too common for bus drivers to be subject to daily abuse. This is completely unacceptable and Unite is holding bus operators to account where they fail to protect workers.”

In addition, many drivers reported a surge in robberies, with over half feeling unsafe at work.

“It is only a matter of time till one of us is robbed” – anonymous Stagecoach bus driver in Yorkshire 

An anonymous Stagecoach bus driver in Yorkshire said: “I am extremely worried as I feel myself or colleagues will be seriously physically attacked whilst at work. The risk to us all regarding carrying large amounts of cash whilst on duty, and when walking late at night back to the depot, places us at extreme risk. It is only a matter of time till one of us is robbed.

“The risk to us is severe, yet nothing is in place to mitigate those risks. We should not be placed in a situation where we are verbally and potentially physically attacked whilst at work, nor should we be put at risk whilst walking between the depot, drivers rest areas and buses at any time of day or night. I do fear for my safety whilst on or off the buses and when face to face with the public, as there is no way of stopping them attacking or robbing me, and I feel like the company does not care.”

“The endemic nature of bus driver abuse must end” – Unite National officer, Bobby Morton

Unite National officer, Bobby Morton, said: “The endemic nature of bus driver abuse must end, bus operators must start taking their responsibilities to worker safety seriously. Where operators fail to do this Unite will step in to protect our members.

“Bus drivers are demanding concrete legislation which provides statutory protection for transport workers. Unite is committed to making this a reality.”

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