Metroline bus drivers to ballot for industrial action

London bus drivers employed by Metroline will next week be balloted for industrial action over plans to introduce a controversial remote sign-on system.

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. Remote sign on forces drivers to start work away from the depot, reducing costs and boosting the company’s profits.

Unite argues there is no benefit to passengers, but could well cause disruption to services used by the hundreds of thousands of people who use buses every day to get to work and school.

Anger about Metroline’s proposals was highlighted by a consultative ballot at both Metroline companies in the capital. Unite members at Metroline West recorded a 99.2 per cent yes vote, while the figure for Metroline Travel was 97.8 per cent.

Ballot papers will be sent from Friday and the ballot will close on October 26 with strikes across London in November should the members vote in favour of industrial action.

The workforce has described Metroline’s plans to introduce remote sign on as a ‘massive slap in the face’ for a group of workers who kept London moving during the height of the pandemic, despite the deaths of 29 London bus drivers and many others suffering serious illness after contracting the virus.

Although the dispute is primarily about remote sign-on, there are also concerns about the lack of air conditioning in bus drivers, problems over the sealing of cabs and other health and safety worries.

Unite regional officer Mary Summers said: “Metroline has failed to understand the anger among our members about its proposals to introduce remote sign on. This is a huge slap in the face to drivers who lost colleagues during the pandemic but who still in the spirit of public service continued to ensure key workers got to work.

“There is also absolutely no advantage to passengers in this system, and in fact it builds in the potential for service disruption. Metroline is more interested in profits than passenger or driver safety.

“The company are experimenting with the safety of London’s transport network during a pandemic which is reckless in the extreme. If strike action does occur it will inevitably cause severe disruption for London commuters but this dispute is driven by Metroline’s desire to turbo-charge profits. Metroline need to see reason and drop these ill-thought out and dangerous proposals.”

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