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National bus strike Tuesday: Drivers call for new standards

Around a hundred drivers will take strike and picket action in Auckland while another hundred will strike and picket in the Waikato. Meanwhile bus drivers in Wellington will begin their indefinite strike on the same day (Tuesday, 23rd October).

NB: Please contact the Tramways Union for the Wellington strikes and FIRST Union for the Auckland and Waikato strikes.

The strikes come after a disastrous recent history for bus drivers throughout New Zealand.

Why are they striking?

Industrial unrest (such as strikes and lockouts) has been the norm over the last several years across a majority of companies within the bus transport industry.

In Auckland the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) has created a race to the bottom on wages for companies tendering for bus routes. This is because there are no regulations limiting the cuts to pay and allowances such as overtime and sick leave. This penalises the companies that do pay higher rates to drivers because they cannot cut costs anywhere else. Drivers are also seriously overworked with some split shifts requiring them to be away from home for up to 14 hours a day. According to the OECD’s Better Life Index for 2017 the average New Zealander working full time is afforded around 15 hours a day for personal care and leisure. That’s for eating, sleeping, socialising and hobbies. Compare this to the above statistics and bus drivers are short-changed five hours a day, suggesting they work some of the longest hours in the country, but not by choice. The new model’s maximising of income and minimising of subsidies has resulted in tired, over-worked drivers and an unsafe transport system for commuters.

In contrast, drivers in the Waikato region would simply like enough pay and hours to pay for life’s necessities. Safety is a serious issue for the region with drivers reporting buses with duct-taped steering columns, broken radios and air-cons stuck on cold. These drivers are very close to their local communities and support has been coming in thick and strong for the striking drivers despite the hassle it causes rural communities because they understand it’s now their safety too that the drivers are striking for.

More information can be found at FIRST Union’s Bus Fair campaign page on Facebook here:

FIRST Union Divisional Secretary Jared Abbott says bus drivers are not treated as people who have lives outside of work.

“Bus drivers are not given the same everyday rights most of us have; like being able to spend time with family, have a hobby, or to have down time to socialise and be an active member of their communities. They can’t afford to pay bills and things like going to the movies and holidays are just not even considered.”

Mr Abbott says Auckland Council and Auckland Transport need to realise the PTOM model is defunct and impacting on the wellbeing of hundreds of working people.

“Industry-wide standards would clean up the calamity that is the bus system in New Zealand, honestly, while there are quite different issues in different regions it’s safe to say it’s absolute chaos everywhere, we need to be listened to this time.”

“That’s why drivers are calling for a Fair Pay Agreement not only in Auckland, but country-wide to drastically improve the lives of hundreds of hard-working New Zealanders.”

“Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and bus companies need to recognise that drivers are people with a life outside of work that should be their own to do with what they choose. Further, this problem has stretched further than workers’ welfare. Do we really want exhausted people operating heavy machinery with lives on board or do we want them to be afforded the dignity that most other New Zealanders have?”

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