London bus driver sacked for ditching passengers to grab coffee

A London bus driver has been sacked after abandoning a full load of passengers so he could get a coffee in a nearby café while on shift. Ian Brown was driving the 243 route from Waterloo to Wood Green when he decided to take a break with the engine running, leaving the bus service behind schedule.

Mr Brown was already under caution because of poor attendance during his five years of service before he stopped the bus, went to the toilet and grabbed a hot drink in March 2020.

An employment tribunal heard that Brown was called by his controller who asked why the bus was late. In response, Brown allegedly said: “It is against my contract. I’m not driving this bus for the rest of the day.”

The controller warned the refusal to continue driving would be a “self-suspension”. Mr Brown allegedly replied: “I’m not suspending myself, you are bullying me and I’m not fit to drive. You can collect the bus from Seven Sisters,” and subsequently left the bus.

He complained to his boss he was being bullied and should be paid while suspended.

He said: “Controllers’ constant bullying and harassment while on duty goes unnoticed. Are you saying I have no rights to a toilet break or to be paid while off sick…. This is not a self-suspension but stress under duress.”

The tribunal also heard that CCTV showed the driver running a red light as he read a letter inviting him to a disciplinary hearing.

An initial misconduct hearing reviewed the CCTV footage and his attendance records and he was sacked on August 11, 2020.

Mr Brown appealed against the decision but on February 22, 2023, an employment tribunal concluded his claim of unfair dismissal had failed.

Employment Judge Tuck KC wrote: “On 13 March 2020 the claimant was driving a double-decker bus on route 243.

“He arrived late to take over the bus – at around 2.17pm then left it unsecured at a bus stand, with the engine running and passengers on board, while he went to the café to use the toilet and collect a hot drink, not leaving the stand until 2.21pm.

“CCTV from a camera in the bus cab from 2.22pm shows the claimant taking pages which had been in the envelope. He was braking as he approached a traffic light, shows the light turning from amber to red at least three seconds before the claimant reached the stop line, and the claimant proceeding across the junction.

“It is not in dispute that the letter which was in the claimant’s hand and shown during this CCTV footage was the letter dated 12 March inviting him to a disciplinary hearing.

“I am satisfied that dismissal was within the range of reasonable responses. Furthermore, I would have found that the claimant contributed to his dismissal by 100 percent.”

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