A nearly $1 million dollar fine incurred by Ritchies Transport Holdings after admitting a health and safety charge on a bus crash that killed three and injured twenty-seven others shows why the company needs more scrutiny from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), and union members are warning that the problems are endemic, FIRST Union said today.
“Speaking bluntly, Ritchies are among the worst employers in New Zealand to deal with, both in terms of how they approach health and safety obligations - glibly - and how they look after their drivers,” said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.
“A crash like this shows us that the worst can happen when you’re more concerned with profit than driver safety and wellbeing, and the size of the fine and reparations reflects this.”
“Given that Ritchies is one of the largest bus companies in New Zealand and they tender their services to the Ministry of Education as school bus drivers, they should be a model employer.”
In May, Mr Abbott, wrote to the NZTA, calling for an audit into the state of buses in Auckland following repeated complaints from drivers that vehicles were unsafe to drive, poorly maintained and often returned to circulation on the roads without prior faults being fixed. FIRST Union has not yet received a response from NZTA.
“It would be naïve to think that this really was a freak, one-off accident when Ritchies is so set on cutting costs in all parts of their service,” said Mr Abbott.
“The wheels on the bus won’t keep going round and round if they’ve already fallen off.”
“I don’t want to see any more of our members put in harm’s way by a careless employer, and NZTA needs to ensure that the public aren’t at risk from unmaintained buses.”