Today’s Budget will be a test of the Government’s commitment to solving long-standing problems in public transport and emergency care, and to be successful, it must begin the process of rescuing our bus and ambulances services from the brink of failure and honour existing agreements to provide fair wages and conditions that are now years overdue, FIRST Union said today.
"Today’s Budget will let us know whether or not the Government has any intention of stepping in to fix our broken bus and ambulance services," said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.
"Bus drivers were promised a living wage as part of Labour’s election campaign and it hasn’t been delivered. Likewise, many ambulance officers will suffer a pay cut this year due to their employer’s brutal negotiating tactics. If the Government is unable to provide simple protections for its most trusted public servants due to interference from its current providers, it has to move towards public ownership."
"This Budget must include some kind of funding to avoid this pay cut for 2021 and ideally offer some indication that the Government has reconsidered rolling the ambulance service into the newly-announced Health NZ, which is an absolute no-brainer."
FIRST Union members at St John say the service is overwhelmed, and after consistently combative negotiations between St John and ambulance officers, Mr Abbott says public ownership via the Health NZ entity is the only option to avoid continued mismanagement of the service.
"Meanwhile, bus drivers have been caught up in a game of pass-the-problem between bus operators, councils and politicians, and most of them still do not earn a living wage or claim the pay packet intended for them by taxpayers," said Mr Abbott.
"There is a reason we’re struggling to find good bus drivers and keep them in the job - it’s a difficult career already and is made all the more so by employers who have deliberately kept wages low to compete for council contracts by bidding low."
"The Government’s Budget today could indicate whether or not someone - councils, operators, or the Government themselves - will directly fund the living wage that was promised to these drivers or continue to play the blame game."
Tomorrow, FIRST Union will be a part of the Council of Trade Unions’ Budget analysis event and Mr Abbott will be available during the Q&A session to answer any questions.