A London bus driver fired in February 2021 has raised over £ 13,000 in crowdfunding in an attempt to get his job back after an alleged cover-up of Covid outbreaks in bus repair shops across London.
David O’Sullivan, who worked for bus operator Metroline for six years before being fired, says bus operators, authorities and unions have not done enough to protect bus drivers at the height of the pandemic.
In January, he told his colleagues at Cricklewood Bus Garage that they could invoke Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act (1996) to demand extra PPE and detain labor after the deaths of two colleagues in the garage.
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His former employer, Metroline, says Mr O’Sullivan’s actions brought the company into disrepute and were based on factual errors which caused unnecessary panic among colleagues at a difficult time.
The company and Mr O’Sullivan are due for a hearing in the Employment Tribunal on November 24 in what is being seen as a test case for Covid whistleblowing in the transport sector.
Until 2021, David O’Sullivan had a clean employee record at Metroline and ran Route 16 between Cricklewood and Victoria.
In 2020, he says he was concerned about the lack of protection provided to bus drivers to protect them from Covid-19 infection.
He told MyLondon: “Bus drivers had to take steps to protect themselves: to put household film over the holes in the screen [driver’s cab], removing the front seats so that passengers could not sit next to them, opened the center and rear doors and they were disciplined to do so.
“When the drivers died, we were not informed by TfL or bus companies, it was all through social media.
“It was tumultuous. There was no information provided by Unite [the bus drivers’ union] or the company [Metroline]. On my own, I found out that there was a cluster of 12 drivers who had Covid alone in my garage.
“It was so unacceptable that I made the decision to inform workers about their rights under the Employment Rights Act Section 44. I informed drivers what their rights were so we could all stay safe.[…] This is not a question of industrial property rights. This is not a union issue[…] It’s not just about me. This is a test case to stand up for the tragic case of bus workers. “
Sir. O’Sullivan claims that Metroline has the highest number of Covid-related deaths among London bus operators, despite having only the third largest fleet size.
Official figures show that 52 London bus drivers died between March 2020 and March 2021 due to Covid-19, of which 15 worked for Metroline, at least a third more than for every other TfL bus operator.
A request for freedom of information has subsequently revealed that there were 46 drivers with Covid in the Cricklewood garage, more than the 12 first identified.
Earlier this year, MyLondon examined the circumstances that have led to London bus drivers having a far higher death toll than similar service occupations.
An investigation into the death of a bus driver in another garage and business in East London concluded that he may have gotten Covid to work.
Metroline, the dominant TfL bus operator in north-west London, says Mr O’Sullivan began handing out leaflets and disseminating information with inaccurate or incomplete facts taken out of context.
It conducted an investigation into his actions and decided to dismiss him due to gross misconduct. It claims that Mr O’Sullivan was trying to stage a massacre.
A spokesman for Metroline said: “The reasons for Mr O’Sullivan’s dismissal were that he brought Metroline’s reputation into disrepute by disseminating false and harmful information (including, but in no way limited to, inaccurate details about a deceased colleague and his family). , which caused people to fear unnecessarily for their safety and, in the reasonable opinion of the dismissed officer, plans to encourage a mass eviction of staff.
“He had not previously taken time off during the pandemic due to fears for his own health and safety or that of others, nor had he raised such concerns with Metroline executives.” He did not attend the outcome of his disciplinary hearing or his appeal hearing. . “
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At a preliminary hearing in Watford, Hertfordshire, on 4 March, an employment judge rejected Mr O’Sullivan’s request for “provisional relief”, which would have maintained his salary and technical employment until a full court hearing.
Sir. O’Sullivan hopes his case will bring about systemic changes needed to make bus drivers feel safe, protected and valued. He told MyLondon: “Bus drivers kept working during the whole pandemic. Who keeps London and the country running? It is the key workers, as bus drivers, as doctors and nurses, who get the bus to work in London. Still, bus drivers have got a last minute, minimal response to ensure safety.They have put profit over life.
“My colleagues who died are daughters, sons, mothers and fathers whose deaths could be prevented by simple, preventive measures. We need a full track and trace system in depots, transparent reporting of infection rates, a reduction in working hours, so drivers can get fair breaks and take the time to clean everything properly […] TfL does not implement this at all.
“That’s why my case is important. Families are asking for inquiries, commissions, and we have had nothing, so based on the principle, I hope this acts as a trial case to expose the money laundering.”
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Tom Cunnington, TfL’s Head of Buses Business Development, said: “Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on our city and it is tragic that we have lost colleagues to this virus.
“Our thoughts remain with their family and friends. We continue to do everything humanly possible to protect our drivers during the pandemic, following Public Health England’s guidance at every step.
“Their original guideline was that PPE in non-care settings could work counterproductively and was not recommended for transport workers, but the moment that guideline changed, we made sure all our staff wore face masks.”
Sir. O’Sullivan estimates his legal fees will be £ 20,000, so he needs around £ 7,000 more to reach his goal.
He said: “The reaction so far has been fantastic, I have received support from people in France, America, Canada, New Zealand, Germany.
“I just want to thank everyone who has donated even a minimum amount because it really makes a difference and we need it to do the right thing.”
His crowdfunding continues online.
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