Saturday, 7 January 2012

Brent Cross bus drivers demand better treatment from TfL and the London mayor

I'm waiting for the local police to contact me about the Barnet TUC protest on Tuesday 17 January. We are demonstrating ahead of the TalkLondon event at the Peel Centre, Aerodrome Road, Colindale, which Councillor Brian Coleman AM will "chair". London mayor Boris Johnson is coming to "answer questions" put to him by the public, assisted by Councillor Richard Cornelius who will "represent" Barnet Council.

I expect that before they talk to me, the police are consulting Boris Johnson, Barnet council, etc, and "looking me up" on Facebook and Twitter and so on. I know all this because I've dealt with them before when organising protests. They are very friendly at first but if you so much as step one hair's breadth out of line the friendliness evaporates. At least, that is my experience. (There are some exceptions among the local constabulary, but I won't name names and embarrass them.)

Anyway, we will be in good company on the 17th as we will be joined by a contingent of bus drivers, protesting against the way TfL managers treat them, specifically the inadequate facilities for them at Brent Cross shopping centre. (The London mayor is in ultimate charge of TfL.)

I'm pasting below the text from the leaflet put out to build the protest. I wouldn't presume to say that one of the organisers is a friend, but he is a good acquaintance.
We are not dogs!

The "We are not dogs" campaign is organising a lobby of Boris Johnson against the closure of the Brent Cross toilet and for decent toilet and mess room facilities for the bus drivers.

For years now Transport for London has treated Brent Cross drivers like dogs. They close the only toilet the male and female drivers have at the slightest excuse and force both sexes to use the bushes near the Brent River to relieve themselves when the Centre is closed. A driver was fined £80 for this last year at the Spires in Barnet because he had to use the bushes.

The health and safety implications are obvious; must we wait until a woman is raped or killed to expose these shocking social attitudes from TfL? Since 28th November they have closed the toilet 3 times (25 out of 37 days on 4 January), and say it cannot be opened now until February.

TfL are threatening to close it permanently unless “we” stop misusing it – just because some unknown person, driver, member of the public or even a TfL official has carved swastikas on the wall we are “all” not responsible enough to be given this basic human right! The toilets have been fully functional during all this time, only closed to “teach you a lesson” as one official put it.

A driver asked TfL official Mick Foley why he kept the fully functional toilet closed on New Year's Day when the drivers had nowhere else to go because Brent Cross Shopping Centre was closed? He said "I know it is fully functional. You will have to do something about it".

So he knows of the petition and our complaints to the GLA members and he is laughing at us. They will close that toilet at random and there is absolutely nothing the drivers can do about it, they are all totally confident.

TfL closed the toilet at Turnpike Lane station for months also citing graffiti. An elderly driver from Ponders End garage on the 221 route arrived there late at night desperate and began to wet himself when he found it closed. He relieved himself into a bottle to make less mess. TfL forwarded the CCTV of his humiliation to his garage and they sacked him for it. Apparently these TfL officials enjoy their sadistic "right" to humiliate drivers like this all over London.

We demand:

1. The toilet be opened immediately and kept open while it is functional.

2. The present unventilated fly infested broom cupboard “mess room” is converted into expanded toilet facilities, properly ventilated and available at all times for the drivers.

3. A Muslim shower and prayer area. As the Qur'an advises Muslims to uphold high standards of physical hygiene and to be ritually clean whenever possible, bathrooms should be equipped with a Muslim shower situated next to the toilet, so that individuals may wash themselves. This ablution is required in order to maintain ritual cleanliness.

4. Proper mess room facilities for the 70 odd drivers who have to take their meal breaks at Brent Cross, either a room within the Centre or a portacabin with drinks machine, television and rest facilities. We cannot wait for 5 or 7 years for the new Centre, as they tell us, only to be put in another broom cupboard.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is holding one of his "TalkLondon" events in Barnet on Tuesday 17 January. We intend to hand our “We are not dogs” petition signed by as many bus drivers as possible to the Mayor at this meeting. As many busdrivers as possible need to attend this picket and meeting in uniform and ask as many questions of the Mayor as we can:

● Why do you punish all drivers for the graffiti of one?

● How can you make 70 drivers take their meal breaks at an unventilated, fly-infested converted broom cupboard?

● Why can they not afford to give us decent toilet facilities from the hundreds if not thousands of millions of pounds the customers we bring to Brent Cross spend at the Centre?

● Why do professional drivers get treated like dogs in 2012 in this ‘great city’ showcasing the Olympics?


Mr Mustard said...

Surely all employers have to provide proper facilities for the basic human needs of their employees ( sorry to seem so naive ) as I had to do when I had an office. X no. of toilets for toilets for Y no. of female staff and so on.

If High Barnet tube has proper facilities, a tea station for staff on the platform and loos in proper buildings ( not seen them but they have them for passengers which is rare on the tube ) then the same facilities should be available for bus drivers.

Mrs Angry said...

absolutely agree: as someone who actually uses the bus station at Bx I know how busy it is - to deny employees something as basic as toilet facilities is surely in breach of statutory requirements? In my experience TFL & City Hall are not the slightest bit interested in what is a major transport hub - when I pointed out there is nowhere in Bx to top up an Oyster card they said it was not necessary as you could do this miles away at Hendon or Bx tube station (a long scary walk away via unlit underpasses etc). The drivers should refuse to stop at Bx until their loos are reinstated, in my view: that would soon focus attention on the problem.

David Duff said...

Do you not think it is time that the drivers had someone to wipe their arses for them, as well? I mean, it's their right, innit?

BrentCrossCrick said...

They say they cannot wait for 5 or 7 years for the new Centre, only to be put in another broom cupboard.

TfL will attempt to move the bus station, to lie directly alongside the ten lanes of the North Circular Road. When you are next at Brent Cross, take a walk down there.

An estimated 3,800 Londoners a year suffer premature death due to air pollution, mostly due to transport. The tiny individual risk, when multiplied by ten million bus station users a year, would equal real deaths. Not a pleasant thought.

The risk would, of course, be much higher for TfL staff who spend much of, or all, their working lives at the bus station.

A better alternative is to leave the bus station exactly where it is, and spend money on improving it.

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Duff: I dare say that you are perfectly happy to shit in the bushes out there in Frome, but here in the metropolis we prefer to be more discreet, and we like to extend this facility to all workers in the course of their duties, rather than expect them to last ten hours without a toilet break.