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Union urges temperature tests for bus workers

01 May 2020

UNITE, THE UK and Ireland’s largest union, which represents over 80,000 thousand bus drivers in the UK, is calling on all bus operators to introduce compulsory temperature checks to further protect workers against COVID-19.

Unite is looking for the measures to be initially introduced in London, where 27 bus workers have succumbed to COVID-19, with the temperature checks then rolled out across all bus operators in the UK. Under Unite’s proposals all bus workers would have their temperature checked as they arrive for work using a laser thermometer. Workers who register a high temperature would then be provided with immediate assistance to access a COVID-19 test, which they are entitled to receive as key workers.

The worker with the high temperature would be sent home without loss of pay. Test results are usually known with 72 hours during which time, Unite argues, the worker should be paid with no loss of earnings. If the worker tests negative they quickly return to work. If they test positive they then receive industry sick pay until they are able to return to work.

Unite has been in daily contact with both Transport for London (TfL) and individual bus operators in the capital seeking to get the scheme introduced. An initial trial at one London garage operated by Tower Transit has had positive feedback from the workforce. When it has been successfully introduced in London, Unite says the scheme should then be quickly rolled out across the UK.

Unite London regional secretary Pete Kavanagh said: “It is essential that all reasonable measures are taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to protect bus workers. By checking temperatures and ensuring drivers are then tested, not only will we be able to reduce the risk of infection but we can also ensure that workers can quickly return to work if the test is negative.

“Once it is identified that a driver has a high temperature the company has a duty of care. The driver is instructed to go home and get tested and further contamination is avoided. One person who does not realise they have symptoms could unwittingly infect many of their colleagues.

“If it protects just a handful of workers from an infection that has killed far too many bus workers in London then it is well worth doing.”