||Issue No. 207||22 December 2003|
Backs to the Wall
Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Unions: Fightback 2003
Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Politics: United Front
Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
International: Net Benefits
History: The New Guard
Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Review: Culture That Was
The Locker Room
Looking The Otherway At Christmas
NSW: State of Discomfort
Drivers have slammed "third world conditions’ under which they work, saying the issue is an industry wide problem and that operators and government are failing to address a serious public hygiene problem.
The private bus industry services many expanding areas of Sydney and the Central coast where amenities for drivers are either inadequate or non-existent.
"We normally have to go out on shifts that are mostly five hours long," says Ron McGill, who works out of the Westbus depot at Northmead. "We all have bodily functions. The times we get to do these things are very tight. People are often forced to contain themselves."
McGill says that the time pressure issues are compounded by a lack of facilities.
"Under OH&S legislation employers are supposed to address these things, but the solution needs a global approach."
Drivers would like to see stakeholders - including local governments and chambers of commerce that benefit from bus services in their areas - recognise the problem and reach consensus on a common sense solution.
Former bus driver and Transport Workers Union organiser Mick Pieri echoed McGill's concerns.
"The drivers have to hang on for hours on end. A lot of time when you need to go to the loo you have to go through passengers just to get to the toilet. The passengers can be irate because the bus is running late," says Pieri, who says that the issue is more than just toilets. "We've been fighting thee issues for ten years. We need facilities with hot and cold running water, proper meal rooms, proper amenities."
Pieri told of one instance where drivers were issued with towels and soap, but nowhere to use them. Drivers are often forced to take their breaks by the side of the road.
As well as the public hygiene risks in not providing appropriate facilities for workers who come into contact with hundreds of members of the public on a daily basis, drivers are also concerned about the long term health effects.
"I have no doubt its got to have some effect on the bladder and the kidneys," says McGill.
Pieri also suspects that being forced to hold off going to the toilet on such a regular basis could be linked to high incidence of prostate problems among bus drivers.
In the meantime drivers across the private bus industry are frustrated at the slow progress in addressing their concerns and are seeking to highlight their situation to gain the support of the public.
There has been some agreement from state rail to incorporate bust driver facilities at redevelopments of major transport terminals, but this fails to address the problems at the end of runs that are often in recently developed subdivisions.
"The rate of progress is slow,' says McGill. "There is no privacy [in the new subdivisions]. It's not like you can go behind a tree."
"We have to press for these improvements. Unless [the stakeholders] are embarrassed and can be more objective."
Until then bus drivers remain frustrated that they can't enjoy the sort of facilities that other people take for granted.
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