Unite, the UK’s leading union, which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, is calling on the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) to institute an independent audit of air conditioning systems for all London buses.
The call comes after many drivers in the capital raised concerns about the air conditioning in their cabs not working, or being inadequate during the recent hot weather, resulting in sweltering temperatures and fears that drivers could become so fatigued by the heat it could impinge on road safety.
The problem of malfunctioning air conditioning is not new and has become a yearly occurrence. As well as boiling temperatures in the summer it can also lead to freezing conditions during the winter months.
Unite is calling for a proper solution rather than a sticking plaster approach to this problem and believes that this can only be rectified by an independent audit, which not only examines if individual air conditioning and air chilling systems are operating correctly and are regularly maintained but also examines if there are particular problems with certain models of buses.
Unite has also circulated information to members which explains that if temperatures reach a point where the driver no longer believes that the bus can be driven safely, then the driver should leave the cab and not begin driving again until it is safe to do so.
Unite regional secretary for London Pete Kavanagh said: “Decisive action needs to be taken to resolve the problem of the air conditioning on buses once and for all.
“This week many of our members have been in danger of heat exhaustion while driving a bus.
“It is ridiculous that London bus drivers regularly feel that they are being boiled alive in the summer and frozen to death in the winter. This is not only affecting their health but undermines the safety of all passengers as alertness and reactions are adversely affected.
“Drivers have lost confidence in the bus companies’ ability or willingness to resolve these problems and therefore it is essential that an independent audit is undertaken and the problems identified are acted upon once and for all.”
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “It is a disgrace that in 2021 bus drivers are still having to contend with these intolerable conditions.
“The fact is our climate is changing, extreme weather is more and more common and so our most commonly used form of public transport must adapt too. I’ll be raising this with the bus manufacturers because we need buses that are safe, fit and comfortable for both drivers and passengers.”