Bus drivers refuse to accept abuse

Bus drivers march down central Auckland road calling for better pay and conditions, December 9, 2019.

Guest post by an anonymous bus driver.

For Wellington bus drivers it is “TIME” to take action, like Auckland drivers have just done.

For the record, earlier this year, our concerns were forwarded onto the head of the Trade Unions, Tramways Union Secretary and the Transport Ministers office, with the reassurance from these parties, that our concerns would be addressed as early as May 2019.

Considering the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] agreement that was accepted by all participating parties, it is quite clear that the agreement has been breached, by not addressing our concerns as requested in May 2019.

In all fairness to the MOU partners, you have attempted to address one of our concerns, that of our hourly pay rate.  Albeit you gave us a very low and unsatisfactory pay increase of just 3%, without consultation or respect of our concerns raised before the pay increase was given.

Even proper toilet, restroom, and kitchen facilities have been denied drivers to date in appropriate locations.

All Parties fully understand that bus drivers’ rights and certain conditions have been compromised under the new contracts signed with Bus Operators in 2018, that is one of the main reasons why over 100 drivers left the industry in 2018.

The GWRC [Greater Wellington Regional Council] have admitted they “got it wrong” when they implemented the new bus network in July 2018.  Unfortunately, instead of addressing our raised concerns as to the main reasons for the network failure, (poor pay and conditions for existing drivers) The GWRC continues to blame the network failure on the bus operators simply not being “able to recruit new drivers.”

Recently over 50 drivers have resigned in frustration, any new raw recruits will quickly become disillusioned and end up resigning unless urgent action is taken.

The other “sad and disturbing” fact is: Recent advertising to recruit new raw drivers at the same rate as professional drivers shows a “total” disregard for drivers that are “experienced” and “faithful” to their Employer to date.

The general public are not easily deceived, The feedback on social media clearly shows that the majority of people fully understand that the main issue behind the network failure to date, is because the GWRC  is not looking after existing drivers and they (the public) have stressed that the minimum pay for experienced drivers should be $26 per hour.

Why then do all the MOU partners deliberately breach the agreement and continue to ignore the general public’s opinion   and continue to blunder along?  The answer is simple – to “Try” and save costs at the Drivers expense!!    “Unless” the drivers are well looked after, the costs and the failures of the network will continue to escalate, as has been the case to date.

As long as the MOU partners continue to blame other factors and avoid addressing poor pay and conditions for bus drivers, as to the main reason why the bus network is failing so badly, they will have headache after headache and incur further increased costs for all parties, unless the drivers concerns are dealt with in fairness and integrity.

 Instead of addressing the current driver issues, MOU partners are “sweeping them under the carpet,” and desperately trying to recruit drivers, knowing full well the  “pay and conditions for drivers is “below standard and uneconomical for drivers,”  causing real hardship and frustration for drivers and their families.

To date the Unions have failed to fully represent the “frustrated” drivers at MOU meetings and seem to be running their own agenda to a certain extent. They also endorse recruitment of overseas drivers at a higher pay rate than existing drivers, rather than ensuring that existing drivers get proper pay and conditions.

Because of the lack of constructive progress that the MOU partners are making in their meetings to date to make drivers pay and condition better, it clearly shows that the majority of existing bus drivers, potential new drivers and the general public are becoming totally “disillusioned” by the MOU partners and their antics to date that has caused so much disruption.

Even when the failure of the MOU partners to look after existing drivers pay and conditions has been exposed, the MOU partners blindly continue to spend  $ 100,000’s of dollars, trying to recruit and import drivers from overseas at higher basic pay rates than existing drivers based on a minimum rate of $ 25 per hour.

 The continuation of the MOU partners to “blunder on” and ignore the existing drivers and the general public’s concerns regarding the failed bus network in Wellington, will no doubt add to the current havoc in the bus industry, create many more potential bus accidents and the continual loss of drivers will continue to plague the industry, “until” current drivers are full respected and appreciated.

 Bus drivers have been “fighting” since 2018 to regain better pay and conditions, since new bus operators’ contracts were signed back in July 2018.  The actions/inactions of MOU partners to date, regarding the complete lack of real progress to address driver pay and conditions, is simply: “Unfair”, “Unjust”, “Wrong”, and “Out of Order.”

The bus passengers also have had “enough” of the network disasters and disruption,  failure to urgently address the matters raised re the above will leave bus drivers no other option but to take “industrial action”, the status quo can no longer afford to be allowed to continue ignoring the main issues that are continually been “swept” under the carpet.

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