EXCLUSIVE: Bus drivers are told they WILL get full sick pay from now on… after they continue to work with covid-19 symptoms because of money fears
- Drivers with families have been getting as little as £153.32 per week sick pay
- Many have carried on working because they could not afford to self-isolate
- Fourteen transport workers have died after contracting covid-19 so far
- There are fears that the buses are acting as incubators for the disease
- After being questioned by MailOnline, Transport for London (TfL) told all London’s private bus operators to offer full sick pay
- But drivers remain sceptical about whether their bosses will take heed
- It comes as further videos and photographs of ‘filthy’ buses emerge
Bus drivers have been told that they will now get full sick pay after many went to work with covid-19 symptoms because of money fears, MailOnline can reveal.
Hardworking drivers with families have been getting as little as £153.32 per week, forcing them to choose between self-isolating and putting food on the table.
Typical sick pay rates should be between £300 and £500 per week, depending on length of service. But in practice, many get far lower sums.
Fourteen transport workers have died in London after contracting covid-19 so far, including eight bus drivers.
There are concerns that the buses, which are used by NHS nurses and other keyworkers, are acting as incubators for the disease which has been spreading rapidly in the capital.
After being questioned by MailOnline last night, Transport for London (TfL) wrote urgently to all London’s private bus operators, telling them to pay full sick pay.
But many transport workers fear that this has come too late. ‘The culture needs to change,’ one said. ‘They’re used to treating us like dirt and they won’t stop overnight.’
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A bus driver wears a medical mask as a precaution, as MailOnline reveals that many are going to work even though they have covid-19 symptoms because they are getting low sick pay
Bus driver Emeka Nyack, 36, right, who died of coronavirus after raising concerns about the filthy state of his bus, with his son Makiah, seven
Bus drivers Mohammed Nehman, left, and Nadir Nur, right, both died of covid-19
Speaking anonymously, a driver who has been employed by Metroline in north and west London for five years said he had been forced to work with a cough.
‘I had to self-isolate last week because my son had a chest infection,’ he said.
‘At first, my manager put it down as unpaid leave because I didn’t have the symptoms myself yet.
‘We had a big row and in the end I got £153 for the week. I haven’t been able to pay the rent and I’m getting threatening phone calls.
‘Bus drivers live hand-to-mouth as it is. Now we’re pretty much broke. I’ve got three children and they’re eating me out of house and home.
‘Now I’m coughing, but I’ve got to just work through it. I’m terrified that if I get too ill to work, what that would mean in terms of money for my family.’
Metroline said that the way the employee was treated was a mistake, but other drivers at the company said they had had similar experiences.
One told MailOnline that he had decided to use his holiday allowance when he was unwell, as the rates of sick pay were so bad.
‘They’re pushing us to work, that’s the biggest problem,’ he said. ‘Drivers are making that decision: do I go to work or don’t I?
‘Nine times out of 10 we go, because there’s no alternative. We are too scared about losing money.’
A Metroline spokesman claimed that no driver should be forced to work if they have symptoms, adding that ‘anyone with symptoms should self-isolate and will receive full sick pay’.
‘No member of our team will face financial hardship as a result of shielding on the recommendation of Government or a GP,’ the spokesman said.
Any drivers who have been offered low sick pay by their manager, or are being forced to self-isolate without pay, should complain to Human Resources, he added.
Empty soap dispensers and overflowing bins were filmed by a driver at the depot in Southall, London, leaving bus drivers with little opportunity to practise safe hygiene
Taken by a bus driver this morning before his shift commenced, this picture shows a filthy bus
More pictures show unidentified stains on a bus before it was put into use this morning, after it should have been deep cleaned
A driver working for Abellio, which operates buses in west London, said: ‘I told my boss I was feeling ill and I wanted to see a doctor, but he said it was nothing but a minor cough.
‘We only get between £50 and £150 per week sick pay, so I’m just having to work through it.’
He added: ‘The only thing they care about is getting the buses out, so they put us in the firing line. The managers are all hiding at home, leaving us on the front line.
‘They pay us the bare minimum, whatever they think they can get away with. They’ve got us by the balls.’
When questioned by MailOnline, Tom Cunnington, TfL’s Head of Bus Business Development, said:
‘We have today written to all of London’s bus operators urging them to do the right thing by vulnerable employees and, like TfL, provide sufficient financial support so that they do not have to come to work.
‘This is to ensure that these drivers don’t feel forced to attend work for financial reasons when they shouldn’t.’
It comes as the row over dirty buses continues, with drivers taking to social media to post pictures of their grimy vehicles.
MailOnline has obtained videos of the staff facilities in the bus depot in Southall, west London, which has no soap, toilet paper or hand towels. The bin was seen overflowing and the lavatory had apparently not been cleaned.
An Abellio spokesman said that the company was ‘disappointed’ that it did not meet its normal ‘housekeeping standards’ on this occasion.
‘We are increasing checks on these facilities and have asked staff to notify a manager or supervisor if there are any hygiene issues,’ he said.
But drivers from the same depot have also passed MailOnline videos and pictures of apparently filthy buses. All were taken at the start of each shift, when the vehicles should have been cleaned.
‘There are three or four cleaners dealing with 50 or 60 buses,’ one driver said. ‘They don’t have the time to deep clean them.
‘The Mayor of London has promised that buses are being deep cleaned, but we haven’t seen that happening on the ground.’
TfL’s Head of Bus Business Development claimed that although the buses were still soiled by liquids and rubbish, and had apparently not been cleaned, they had been treated with anti-virus spray that made them safe.
He said: ‘Every single bus is cleaned before it enters service each day, in addition to daily applications of anti-viral fluid. We’ve been very clear with operators that this must happen, and it is happening.
‘It is the anti-viral detergent fluid that provides the protection from coronavirus rather than the regular sweeping and litter picking on buses.
‘Sadly, there may be occasions when litter or marks are left on a bus while it is in service, but if passengers and drivers report anything they see it can be dealt with as soon as possible.’
Grime and sticky stains were seen this morning on the floor of the bus by the driver’s cab and the passenger doors after the vehicle was supposedly deep cleaned
Mother makes a desperate plea for public transport workers to be adequately protected after son’s death
A mother has made a desperate plea for public transport workers to be adequately protected following the death of her son.
Emeka Nyack Ihenacho is one of nine bus drivers who have lost their lives to coronavirus in the UK.
The 36-year-old worked in Holloway, north London, for bus company Metroline, which has also confirmed the deaths of two more employees.
Emeka Nyack, 36, sits in the cab of a bus with his son, Makiah, who is now seven years old
Mr Ihenacho’s mother, Anne Nyack, criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying bus drivers are at risk of catching Covid-19 due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she said: ‘He needs to get out there and have a look at the buses and see what condition the drivers are operating in. They are at risk, my son was at risk, sadly he died.’
She said her son had spoken to his partner and his sister about the ‘dirty’ conditions on the buses.
Ms Nyack pleaded with Mr Khan to provide better protection for transport workers and asked him to visit the families of those who have died.
She said of her son: ‘He was given hand sanitiser – he had no mask, no gloves, nothing. Plus, he was asthmatic, he was open to the elements.
‘I don’t want a letter or a telephone call, I want him (Mr Khan) to see the real faces of the tragedy, which is me and all the other bus drivers that have lost their lives.’
In an emotional tribute, a tearful Ms Nyack described her son as ‘a lovely man with a heart of gold’.
‘He would help anybody,’ she said. ‘He was full of laughter and always a joker, he had a nickname for all of us.’
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