“We were having to go to the toilet behind a portacabin” - Claims about working conditions for bus drivers during coronavirus lockdown revealed

Wisbech bus station

Wisbech bus station - Credit: Archant

Stagecoach has hit back and challenged the claims which include a lack of toilet and hand washing facilities, saying none of the allegations ‘have any substance’.

The driver has asked to remain anonymous as he doesn’t want to lose his job for speaking up about the working conditions at the Stagecoach depots at Long Sutton and Wisbech last week.

He alleges:-

• Drivers were told to stay at work, even if they had been in contact with a colleague in self-isolation with symptoms of COVID-19.

• Toilet or hand washing facilities were not available for three days last week as the Long Sutton depot and Wisbech resting area were shut down.

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• Drivers were having to go to the loo behind a portacabin as there was no running water to wash their hands afterwards.

• One cleaner is responsible for deep cleaning the fleet of buses and is stretched to complete the task properly.

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• Anyone who speaks up about the situation is threatened with being sent home without pay.

Stagecoach has denied many of the claims, but the driver told us: “They [Stagecoach] closed the depot down at Long Sutton and they still made us all go to work, even though we had contact with the driver.

“To make it worse, they left us drivers with no toilet facilities and nowhere to wash our hands for three days.

“Us males at the depot, we were having to go to the toilet behind a portacabin - God knows what the women were doing.”

RMT, the bus drivers’ union, is investigating the claims, which they say reflect working conditions drivers across the country are reporting to them.

A Stagecoach spokesperson wouldn’t confirm if a driver working out of Long Sutton and Wisbech went into self-isolation, but explained the depots and resting facilities at both locations were closed for 72 hours last week for deep cleaning ‘in line with government advice’.

Alternative resting facilities and arrangements were put in place and staff were provided with bottles of drinking water.

There were, however, difficulties in securing a toilet at Long Sutton where staff were advised to use public toilets ‘which are a short walk away from the depot’.

“We also provided a hire care that our employees could use to drive to and from the public toilets,” the spokesperson added.

As the public toilets were closed in Wisbech, drivers were able to use the facilities at a nearby recruitment centre, which Stagecoach has supplied with extra toilet roll and cleaning equipment.

The spokesperson said: “The safety and well-being of our employees is our first priority and we’re extremely proud of the way our teams are pulling together to ensure we can continue to deliver transport links for key workers.

“The team has been working hard to prepare and deliver these services across the East Midlands and Lincolnshire region and we’re extremely grateful for the ongoing effort from all employees.”

Stagecoach added that all staff have been issued with public health guidelines on what to do if they believe they have been in contact with anyone who has displayed coronavirus symptoms.

Every member of staff has also been given their own hand sanitiser, and there are ‘extensive supplies of hand sanitiser and gloves’ at both depots.

Stagecoach insists all vehicles ‘are going through an enhanced cleaning regime which is being strictly adhered to and includes extensive cleaning of the main customer touch points’.

“We have additional cleaning staff helping with this from nearby depots,” the spokesperson added.

“It is completely untrue to suggest that we are stopping people from speaking up.

“We are actively encouraging feedback from our employees and trying to address the concerns they have as well as regularly speaking to our trade union representatives.

“We also have an independent reporting system which our staff can use to raise any concerns anonymously if they would prefer to do this.”

On Friday (March 27), the union RMT wrote to all bus companies with an appeal to look after drivers during the coronavirus lockdown.

It asked companies to transition to cashless travel during the lockdown, enhance cleaning and sanitation regimes, ensure there are adequate toilet and handwashing facilities and that screens are fitted to give drivers added protection.

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