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Greens back bus drivers’ campaign on toilet facilities as Unite explore industrial bladder injury claims

I recently published a guest post on my local blog ‘Wembley Matters’ by Lorraine Robertson about the difficulties faced by London bus drivers due to lack of toilet facilities on bus routes LINK.

Now Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell has put down two questions for London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the September 15th session. The first relates directly to some of the issues Lorraine raised: 

A bus driver has raised with me that some bus routes still do not have adequate toilet facilities, with more than 25 per cent of routes not having a toilet at either the beginning of the route or the terminus. There are also inconsistencies in provision of toilets, where facilities are either not open during drivers working hours, toilets are not free or access to them relies on security personal or other staff to access certain buildings. This is a particularly acute issue for drivers who are menstruating, and some very distressing cases have been reported to me that have impacted the dignity of bus drivers. Will you review provision of toilets on all bus routes and make a commitment to having accessible, clean facilities that are open during all the hours drivers are working on all bus routes, to protect the health and dignity of all bus staff?

The second question is specifically about the 206 bus route that runs from Kilburn Park to The Paddocks in Wembley Park in London:

A constituent has raised an issue with the lack of toilet provision for drivers on the 206 bus route. While there is a toilet near the beginning of the route at Kilburn Park Station, this is not constantly accessible as it requires station staff to open it for drivers. At the route terminus (The Paddocks, Wembley Park) there are no toilets. Will Transport for London (TfL) look into urgently providing a toilet at the terminus of this route?

Meanwhile Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite the Union, addressing combined bus workers about their conditions said:

 It is also why we are looking to mount legal cases on industrial bladder injuries many bus drivers have faced for years due to lack of toilet facilities.

It is easy to make jokes about such matters but they are actually serious health and safety and medical issues with long-term consequences.  Many workers are on the road for hours at a time and the decline in the number of public toilets does not help.  Delivery drivers, under pressure of delivery targets,  often resort to carrying bottles to urinate in as they go about their work, easier for men than women, but not ideal for anyone.

Access to toilets and toilet breaks are often sources of friction between workers and management and featured as one of factors in the famous Grunwick strike of a mainly female and Asian workforce. Modern heavily monitored workplaces record frequency and duration of toilet breaks and can be used in disciplinary proceedings.

A problem that is usually hidden so it is good to seeing it raised as a health and  safety and workers’ dignity issue by unions and the Green Party.

Martin Francis