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Government needs to consult with bus drivers

Government needs to consult with bus drivers if it wants to get its transport plan right

The government’s announcement of a whopping $28 billion dollars toward public transport today comes as another strike notice is issued from bus drivers.

Birkenhead drivers are the latest scheduled to take part in strike action as more bus company drivers join disputes over unfair bus driver pay and unsafe work conditions.

Around 50 drivers will strike Auckland and specifically North Shore depots.

This follows NZ Bus returning to the table and eventually coming to an arrangement with workers after its drivers took rolling strike action last week. Pavlovich drivers remain in negotiations with their employer, and bargaining is continuing next week. Members from two other companies are expected to strike in the coming weeks. It’s all part of a collective push back from union bus drivers against a wearing down of driver pay and work conditions, largely brought on by a council tendering process initiated by the previous government (the Public Transport Operating Model or PTOM).

Drivers want an alternative to the PTOM, and the issues that it has caused to be settled. While these include rostering and pay issues, for Birkenhead buses the negotiation focus is to stop the company bringing in a flat rate, and a slow removal of allowances as established drivers leave the company. Union members want rates that attract new drivers to the company, and allowances and conditions that help retain drivers.

FIRST Union Organiser Graham McKean says the company’s attempt to slowly erode drivers’ pay and work conditions shows a lack of understanding of what the job entails, and a lack of care for other people. He says Auckland bus drivers have had enough.

“We need requirements in place that remind companies that drivers are people too with lives outside of work, and that they are people who’re responsible for 50-60 other passengers’ wellbeing. Bus drivers earn substantially less than truck drivers yet people’s lives are vastly more valuable than commodities.

In reference to the government’s announcement today Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the money will be invested in improving services and creating a 21st century transport network.

Mr McKean says investing in improved services must include investing in the working people who run the service.

“If Government wants a world class transport system, world class rates and conditions should be implemented.”

He says if the Government wants to create something to be proud of, it will require consultation with workers in the transport sector.

“If they want to upgrade the transport system, the metaphorical potholes in the current working environment will need to be fixed first.”

ENDS

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