Remote sign-on spurs argument

Metroline has objected to trade union Unite’s negative claims about the operator’s new remote signing-on process.

By introducing remote signing-on, drivers would not report to a depot but would meet their bus and begin work at a location such as a bus stop.

Unite is warning of potential travel disruption as it engages in the dispute with Metroline. The union is in the process of preparing to formally ballot all its bus drivers employed by the Singapore-owned business.

Unite is opposed to remote sign-on for the following reasons:

  • Safety – It believes there will be no checks to ensure the driver is fit and well to drive a bus
  • Lack of access to toilet facilities, rest and canteen facilities
  • Drivers will be forced to wait for their bus to arrive in all weathers, potentially harming their health and ability to drive a bus over a long shift
  • Greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 in travelling to a location which has not been subject to the risk assessment and health measures in place in a depot
  • Increase the dangers and problems of fatigue as drivers will be subjected to far higher travelling time
  • The lack of a back-up. If a driver is delayed or a bus is not operational, then at a depot there is always alternative options to provide passenger transport.

A Metroline spokesperson said: “We are disappointed Unite is preparing a formal ballot without completing the consultation period. It is even more disappointing that a number of the claims made by Unite are absolutely not accurate. It is wrong to state that we are the first operator to introduce this, remote sign-on has been in place at a number of London bus operators for some time and introducing this on some of our routes will help us to remain competitive.

“Remote sign-on is suitable for very few duties and on a minority of routes, meaning only a handful of drivers are able to benefit. We have been very clear throughout the consultation that we will only introduce remote sign on where there are suitable driver facilities including toilets, hot and cold water, and where possible, canteens.

“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 categorially reject allegations that this could negatively impact safety. Our risk assessment shows there is no evidence of increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Instead, remote sign on clearly helps promote social distancing and we believe drivers will additionally benefit from improved work life balance and importantly, reduced fatigue. We remain open to further discussions with Unite.”

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