Suggestion That Operators Benefiting From Current Crisis; Insulting, Says BCA
The Bus and Coach Association is dumbfounded by the suggestion of one union organisation that bus companies would be ‘double dipping’ on the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.
The fact is that bus and coach operators have been hit hard by the economic lockdown across NZ and the inability for most passengers to move around NZ freely. “Our members are fully in survival mode” BCA Chief Executive Pim Borren says. “Wage subsidies are only available for operators who have lost their projected revenues by at least 30% and that would be the case for almost all our members who have a reliance on tourism coaches and charters. Both have dropped to virtually zero income overnight”.
“The suggestion that any of our members are benefitting from the current crisis is insulting to say the least” says Dr Borren.
We are very pleased that the Government has recognised that the only way most of our member businesses could remain solvent at all has been because of their government contracts for public transport and for school bus services. “The Government has recognised how key these two areas are especially as we come back down to alert levels 3 and 2 and into economic recovery” says Dr Borren.
An additional challenge for many bus operators is that the average age of bus drivers is very high and in fact the highest of any industry grouping. This means more drivers are in the category of over 70 or have at risk health issues and therefore unable to work. Many bus operators have allowed those staff to remain in employment and continue to be paid in the way that the wage subsidy has been designed to do. Others have not been so lucky because their businesses have been totally reliant on tourism.
Like many other industries in NZ so affected by the lockdown, bus operators continue to do their very best by their employees. “They have retained bus drivers wherever possible” says Dr Borren.
The suggestion bus operators are somehow ‘double dipping’ is ridiculous. For urban buses exactly the opposite is the case. We are working with Government right now to determine how to support bus companies still paying staff who are unable to work, and then also having to pay additional drivers to keep public transport running as an essential service. “Urban bus operators cannot afford to pay two drivers to drive one bus and are not currently funded to allow for that” says Dr Borren who hopes that further clarification will come soon around how operators can be compensated for the increase in leave which has resulted because of COVID-19.