Unite the Union has said the gov’s comments about safety measures on its buses ‘are not done with sincerity’. 

Regional Officer Debbie Halsall was responding to comments made by Bus Vannin earlier today. She has said that drivers were told to clean down buses themselves and that Bus Vannin management was slow to introduce steps to protect its staff.

Mrs Halsall has also called on the gov to vaccinate the bus drivers as a priority. After the gov deviated from the JCVI recommendations to vaccinate the Steam Packet crew, there have also been calls from the Chief Constable Gary Roberts to vaccinate his officers. Mrs Halsall said the gov has a ‘duty of care to these people who provide essential services’.

A gov spokesman had said: ‘A number of measures are in place so that we can continue to provide a bus service for essential travel. Since the start of the latest lockdown there has been an enhanced cleaning regime so that both buses and staff working areas are as safe as they can be.’

He said these included ‘hand sanitiser, disposable gloves, masks and packs of cleaning wipes, of which there have always been adequate stocks’.

However, Mrs Halsall has told Gef that during the first two lockdowns drivers were issued with just one paper mask per shift and it was only in this lockdown this was extended to a box of masks being available at the depot, which was replaced when it ran empty, as well as one box of gloves placed at the foyer of Bank Circus and that drivers had to request the sanitiser from control.

She added: ‘A big pack of wipes were available for drivers at control where they could take one or two wipes to wipe down their steering wheel and instruments. Ten days ago duties changed, packs of sterilising wipes were given to drivers who were not driving buses, and they were told to go and wipe down all the poles, buttons on all buses that came in from [different] routes.’ Mrs Halsall said this was the limit of the in-depth cleaning regime and that it only came from the insistence of union representatives. 

‘The PPE screens on the new buses were only fitted as a result of panic by management on the announcement of this lockdown, prior to that the representatives were asking as a matter of urgency for those screens to be fitted when the buses were purchased during the second lockdown, the reason and rationale for not fitting them was the damage it would cause,’ she added.

The Union leader said it gave out the message that the buses themselves were more important than the lives of the men and women driving them.

The gov’s spokesman said that as part of the measures it has introduced, drivers are no longer swapping buses during the day

However, Mrs Halsall said that Union reps were pushing for this change on March 3 in an effort to eliminate the risk of transmission. 

She added: ‘On March 11 management put in place a new set of duties preventing bus swaps which the driver then kept the same bus.

‘The DoI may have implemented the safety rules of Covid in all areas but that certainly was not reciprocated into Bus Vannin until March 18 when the canteen at Bank Circus was cleaned and social distancing was put in place with the tables and chairs. At this moment I cannot say that this has been done at other Depots.

‘The statement of the essential travel and social distancing and mask wearing and cashless payments on all buses are not factually correct for this lockdown. 

Unite Reps had been asking as a matter of urgency for all the above from March 3 and have all email evidence to say these actions were needed. On March 20 a statement from Bus Vannin was released to the media saying these were implemented and now in place from that date, many days after our request.’

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