Go Bus drivers in South Auckland will continue refusing to collect fares tomorrow as their protest continues with the intent of avoiding disruption to passengers while highlighting the need for fair wage negotiations with their employer, FIRST Union said today.
"We started our free fares protest this morning and passengers have been very supportive," says a Go Bus driver and FIRST Union member in Auckland, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from the company.
"People are interested in why we’re protesting, and lots of them already understand that we work hard for low wages when we have the responsibility of keeping our passengers safe and the buses running on schedule - it’s not an easy job."
"With the fire still burning in the central city, we aren’t causing unnecessary disruption to commuters, but the company needs to show us that they’re willing to sit down and talk seriously about why some of us are struggling to make ends meet on such low wages."
"Compared to similar roles in other industries, and compared to other bus operators, we have been consistently underpaid and are now being singled out for being members of a union who are standing up for fair wages."
Bargaining between over 110 FIRST Union members and Go Bus was initiated in May 2019, but the employer was unprepared to hold a first bargaining meeting until last week, almost six months later. During that meeting, Go Bus cancelled further bargaining with FIRST Union members, and members argue that the employer has been covertly referring drivers to a "yellow union" in order to limit any upward movement on wages.
FIRST Union recently resolved a long-standing stoush with the company in Hamilton, requiring the Waikato Regional Council and Minister of Transport to get involved after the company refused to pass on funds the council had agreed with the union to fund drivers’ wages.
"The Minister of Transport has put a huge investment into public transport, and it is being abused by companies like Go Bus, who are trying to enjoy the benefits of this funding while keeping wages low to pad their bottom lines," said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Operations, Logistics and Manufacturing.
"Go Bus have been difficult to work with and intentionally obstructive during a very ordinary bargaining period that you would have in any unionised workforce."
"Wages at Go Bus currently range from minimum wage to around $22.11 per hour, and drivers want to see a significant rise that compensates for increased living costs, poor wage growth and the increasing stress and strain of the job."