Go Bus response to strike action
18 November 2018
GO BUS RESPONSE TO STRIKE ACTION
At 5pm on Friday 16th November, Go Bus was officially notified of further industrial action by First Union. This time, First Union advised that its members will not collect fares on the company’s Waikato urban bus services, for two weeks starting Monday the 19th of November. Go Bus cannot allow this to happen as the situation could raise serious health and safety issues for its non-union drivers who make-up the majority of Go Bus employees.
Following 19 unsuccessful negotiating sessions, six of which involved independent mediators, eight strikes and four stop-work meetings over a 20-month period, Go Bus has decided to lock out the union members in response to the partial strike action notified to it on Friday 16th November.
The ‘Lock out’ will only affect union members who drive urban services. It will not affect school services in Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Katikati. These services will operate as normal.
“Go Bus must protect its employees. Providing a safe workspace is paramount. The majority of drivers are non-union members, but the decision from First Union members to not collect fares puts all other drivers at risk of verbal abuse and physical assault if passengers think they are going to get a free ride, and don’t,” says Go Bus Chief Operating Officer, Nigel Piper.
“Furthermore, Go Bus is contracted to provide bus services in the region and collecting fares is part of that contract, therefore we must act.
“Go Bus acknowledges the right of the union and its members to take industrial action, but when safety becomes a concern we need to act.” Mr. Piper says.
Go Bus will work with the Regional Council to provide an amended timetable utilising a reduced number of drivers. This timetable will be published on the Council’s Busit web page and a summary will be available on the Busit Facebook page as well. This timetable will be in place until further notice.
Go Bus continues to pursue a mutually favourable outcome with First Union through Facilitated Bargaining, run by the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE). This process is the proper and legally mandated pathway for the two parties to work together to come to a resolution. The next meeting is scheduled for 26 November 2018, in Hamilton.
As part of its national campaign, the union is demanding nothing less that the Living Wage. This would represent a wage increase of up to 16.2% on top of the 6.7% already paid earlier this year.
“While Go Bus is supportive of the concept of moving to the Living Wage, this is a financial decision that must involve Councils and the NZ Transport Agency who collectively fund our services and set the passenger fares.
“We have made it absolutely clear to the union that Go Bus is not in a financial position to meet their Living Wage demand at this time, but we are more than happy to work with them in presenting the case to the authorities that fund the bus services.
“We are convinced that First Union understands this, but as part of its national campaign, it wants to cause as much disruption as possible to bus users, and now the council of our region, as well as to Go Bus,” concludes Mr Piper.
Background to the bargaining process and Go Bus’s frustration
For the past 20 months Go Bus has been attempting to negotiate a Collective Agreement with First Union for its driver members in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and King Country areas where Go Bus provides urban and school bus services. Go Bus has over 350 employees in the Waikato region, approximately 80 are First Union members.
Regardless of the offers made by Go Bus, The Union has had a simple bottom line demand: the Living Wage.
Go Bus has made it clear that it is not opposed in any way to the concept of the Living Wage for regional bus drivers, but this is different from paying competitive rates in all areas it operates, as evidenced by its ability to attract and retain good staff.
The company maintains that if a contracting authority elected to stipulate a specific wage rate or Living Wage, provided it was applied to all operators with contracts and the cost to move to a higher rate was fully recoverable, it would implement it.
However, implementing a Living Wage without recovering the costs from the authority would be unsustainable for Go Bus.
Go Bus has a proud track record of increasing wages beyond the level of inflation, the most recent being a 6.7% increase for Hamilton drivers between last December and February this year.
The latest offer that the union has rejected would have provided further increases for some staff of up to 5.6%.
Go Bus has no problems in attracting and retaining good, conscientious staff in the Waikato region.
It also has a good record of successful negotiation with the various other unions that collectively represent a greater proportion of union members than First Union. In the past 20 months Go Bus has successful negotiated four collective agreements with unions.