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Figures from Stagecoach boss don't add up

RAM media release 4.4.05

'Figures from Stagecoach boss don't add up,' says ARC councillor

Robyn Hughes, RAM councillor on the ARC, spent three hours this morning at two Stagecoach workers' picket lines (at Roskill and Wiri bus depots).

The bus workers were on a one-day strike in protest at a stalemate in negotiations which have dragged on since last year.

"Picketers told me that, in the six years since Stagecoach took over the publicly-owned bus company in 1998, drivers have had an effective pay rise of only 4.5 per cent after taking into account the loss of paid meal breaks. This 4.5 per cent is way below the rise in the living costs over the same period, so drivers have suffered a large decline in their real wages under Stagecoach," said Robyn Hughes.

"All drivers roared with laughter when I quoted Stagecoach New Zealand's claim that top drivers were getting over $60,000 a year. They said it was just company propaganda, and described their employer as a tight-fisted, highly-profitable multinational."

"After reading my comments in the NZ Herald supporting the bus drivers, the executive chair of Stagecoach New Zealand, Ross Martin, requested an urgent meeting with me," said Robyn Hughes. "RAM organiser Grant Morgan and I met with Mr Martin and another Stagecoach executive this afternoon at my home."

"Significantly, Mr Martin agreed that combined unions advocate Gary Froggatt was correct in saying that Stagecoach New Zealand had made a profit of $38 million over the last three years. However, Mr Martin claimed that $18 million of this $38 million was paid out in interest charges by another of Stagecoach New Zealand's companies."

"Grant Morgan and I called on Mr Martin to open Stagecoach New Zealand's books to get to the truth of the matter. We said there was a social obligation for a private firm getting tens of millions in public subsidies a year to open its books to public scrutiny," said Robyn Hughes.

"According to Mr Martin, 'Stagecoach New Zealand has never paid a dividend overseas to the Stagecoach Group'. But neither did Mr Martin say who was the recipient of the $18 million paid in 'interest' over the last three years. My question is this: Is this another way of money getting to the bus firm's Scottish multinational, either in direct interest payments to head office, or paying a bank in order to relieve head office of its own interest charges?"

"We won't know until Stagecoach New Zealand opens its books to public scrutiny in return for getting huge handouts of public money."

"Also, Mr Martin's maths didn't add up. He told Mr Morgan and myself that Stagecoach's total expenses in Auckland a year were about $80 million, while its total Auckland revenue a year was about $100 million. Accepting his figures, that means Stagecoach clears $20 million a year from its Auckland operations. But in his next breath, Mr Martin claimed that 'profitability at present is close to zero'. In his briefing to RAM, therefore, Mr Martin gave wildly contradictory figures which don't add up. This calls into question all his figures, which is another reason we need a public inspection of Stagecoach New Zealand's books."

"If, as Mr Martin says, Stagecoach is clearing $20 million a year in Auckland, the company is well able to pay its drivers a living wage. The drivers are asking for $16 an hour now, which is a modest wage for an increasingly stressful job where they hold the lives of their passengers in their hands. Public safety demands that drivers be paid a decent hourly rate so they don't have to make up a living wage by working excessive overtime, which could lead to accidents caused by tiredness."

"I restate my support for the just claim of the Stagecoach workers. RAM calls on the company to pay a decent wage and to open its books. This is an issue of social justice and democratic accountability."


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