It has been a long road for Mike, who after driving around London for almost two decades recently decided to stop.
He is one of hundreds of bus drivers around the country who have gone out on their jobs for a variety of reasons, the simplest of them being due to non-payment.
Many have been lured by better-paying jobs as truck drivers amid the nationwide shortage of truck drivers who have left the country low on supplies this winter.
Able to earn twice the salary they received as bus drivers, they have chosen to endure spending days away from home to earn a living. Since they have already served as bus drivers, they are well accustomed to the long, arduous hours.
READ MORE: How to get a £ 31,000 bus driver’s job in London when services around the country were canceled due to truck changes
Speaking to MyLondon with an alias for fear of losing his job, Mike, who has since found another job in Transport for London, explains some of the reasons why former bus drivers like himself have decided to move on and why they are considering entering. bus driving should be careful.
“I have 19 years of experience as a bus driver. I started in 2002 and finished in 2021, ”says Mike, who lives in East London.
He explains that he left his job after being one of many bus drivers who were disciplined to take their own health and safety measures during the pandemic in which at least 52 bus drivers died in London.
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He said: “During the pandemic, the necessary personal protective equipment was not provided to the bus drivers, so some bus drivers took certain steps on their own initiative to protect themselves, such as putting household films on their doors and tape around the front seats.
“They were disciplined for it by their companies, because that was not company policy. All companies did this, including my own.”
But Mike’s concerns about health and safety as a bus driver already exist in the pandemic.
He says that although the private operators contracted by TfL to operate London’s bus routes operate within the legal requirements to which they are subject, bus drivers are often forced to work inhuman hours with little regard for their personal circumstances.
“If you want to be a bus driver, you have to care about your social life, because you do not have that,” he says.
“If you’re a family man, forget about spending time with your children. It’s a 24/7 job. You can make shifts of up to 16 hours. You will not be able to be there for your children and you will not paid enough to pay for childcare, ”he continues.
Mike says the bus driver’s salary depends on how long you have been driving.
“You might start at £ 10 or £ 11 an hour. Every five years they can raise your salary a little, but after 15 years you will still only get £ 13 or £ 14,” he says, adding, “you would be better off. working at Wendy’s. “
He also says that while bus drivers get a minimum of 10 hours of rest between full shifts, they rarely have the option of refusing overtime, and there is a lack of thinking during the time drivers have to drive between their homes and their pick-up point.
“Often that means you only sleep three or four hours before you have to wake up and go back to work,” he says.
“Before you would travel to the garage, but now they want the bus drivers to go to the exact place where they pick up the bus from, so you might have to travel all the way to the other side of town to get your bus.
“If you take your personal car, you have to pay for the journey and the parking. We get free tickets for use in public transport, but it can be dangerous as we are sometimes recognized by commuters who have had problems with us in the past. It is a danger.”
Mike claims that fatigue and burnout are a major problem for bus drivers and that it leads to them making more mistakes while driving.
Penalties for even the slightest mistake are harsh, and most often for-profit companies are looking for excuses to fire experienced bus drivers who get paid closer to £ 15 an hour and then re-employ them at a lower wage, Mike explains.
He says: “In 2015, I was fired due to unfounded allegations that I did not take certain health and safety measures without evidence.
“I won an appeal but I could not afford to go to court. I was fired but then offered my job again but I had to start from £ 11 an hour. It was a classic case of fire and re-employment. This is a common practice.
“When a member of the public files a complaint, the company’s policy is to investigate.
“This includes checking surveillance camera footage 10 minutes before and after the alleged incident. Even if it is proven that the allegation is not true, if within the 20 minutes they see the footage, the bus driver sees another minor mistake, such as not to check a mirror or take one hand off the steering wheel, the driver is disciplined ”.
Mike goes on to say that lack of understanding from the public makes life even harder for bus drivers.
He says: “The company is penalized with £ 150 of TfL for each person taken in not paying for a ticket.
“People can afford their alcohol, their Nike shoes, their Louis Vuitton jackets, their Apple phones and Apple People watches, but they can not afford £ 1.50 for a bus ticket.
“But it is us who are disciplined. People do not care about the family members we have to feed.”
In times of crisis, Mike says bus drivers are being “abandoned” by their businesses and they are not getting the psychological support they need after an accident.
“Bus drivers do not get any psychological control when, for example, someone commits suicide in front of them,” he says.
“London’s underground train drivers get free time and advice, but bus drivers do not, even though we have a lot more to do with the public and we have a lot more in mind when we drive.
“If someone jumps in front of our bus, the first question the company asks is, ‘why did you not stop?’ There are a lot of ‘why did you not do it, why did you not do it?’ In the end, everything comes back to the bus driver.
“If an accident happens and someone dies, the bus driver will be remanded in custody until the investigation is complete, and even if we are released, we will still be responsible to the company, and still get a warning.”
Asked what he thinks could be done to help bus drivers’ working conditions, Mike says bus drivers “should be able to deny overtime and have more powers over the public,” noting that the balance of power between drivers and the public is much better in other cities in the UK.
“TfL knows about our problems, but they do not look at it. They leave it all to the private companies,” he claims.
“None of the managers in the private companies drive the buses, so they do not understand what we are going through. Our job is to run the service, but we can not control things like traffic, accidents or road work ”.
Mike also urges members of the public to be more understanding with bus drivers and urges TfL to do more to give bus drivers the same sympathy and working conditions that London’s underground staff have.
He says: “You should not blame bus drivers for their mistakes or for your mistakes.
“We’re here to do our job, just like everyone else, so let’s do our job.
“We are not your servants, we are not your slaves, we are not your personal mini-cab drivers”.
MyLondon has approached TfL for a comment.
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