Bus driv­ers march for liv­ing wage

Waikato Times - - News - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

‘‘It’s a bit of a chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion be­cause ratepay­ers are ex­pect­ing the best value for ser­vice’’ Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man Alan Liv­ingston

Bus ser­vices in Hamil­ton will go on hold as driv­ers de­liver a liv­ing wage pe­ti­tion to coun­cil.

To­day Go Bus driv­ers will gather on Grey Street, Hamil­ton East and march to the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil call­ing for help to raise wages to the cur­rent liv­ing wage of $20.20 per hour.

The two-hour stop work meet­ing – from 10am to 12 noon – fol­lows sim­i­lar in­dus­trial ac­tion driv­ers in Tau­ranga and Napier took in Septem­ber when they asked their re­spec­tive coun­cils to push pay higher.

Go Bus com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Craig Worth said bus ser­vices will not be dis­rupted dur­ing the driv­ers’ march.

Coun­cil is re­spon­si­ble for re­gional pub­lic trans­port and con­tracts ser­vices to Go Bus, a com­pany owned by iwi joint ven­ture part­ners Tainui Group Hold­ings and Ngai Tahu Hold­ings.

But coun­cil doesn’t set wages. That’s the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the con­trac­tor.

‘‘We’ve been bar­gain­ing with Go Bus and Go Bus say to us: ‘This is our con­tract with the coun­cil and they don’t give us any more money for wages so that we can’t pass it on,’ ’’ said First Union spokesman Jared Ab­bott.

Coun­cil sets the ten­der process and the con­tracts. If it wanted to, coun­cil could in­sist on a liv­ing wage, Ab­bott said.

‘‘When they select the bus com­pany and the way that bus com­pany op­er­ates, essen­tially, they are set­ting wages, if not di­rectly, with em­ploy­ers.’’

Bus driv­ers pro­vide an im­por­tant but risky ser­vice, he said.

A re­cent sur­vey shows more than half of bus driv­ers are abused or as­saulted on the job by pas­sen­gers and at the mo­ment, their wage rate is ‘‘re­ally low’’ – be­tween the min­i­mum wage rate of $15.75 an hour and $17 an hour.

The 2017 vol­un­tary liv­ing wage rate has been set at $20.20, $4.45 an hour more than the gov­ern­ment’s min­i­mum wage.

‘‘What they are ask­ing for is the liv­ing wage which is about $20 an hour and we think that is pretty rea­son­able given the skills and the type of work.’’

Ab­bott said any real move­ment is ham­strung by the Pub­lic Trans­port Op­er­at­ing Model (PTOM) – a gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment man­ual aim­ing for pub­lic trans­port to op­er­ate in a fully com­mer­cial man­ner with de­creased re­liance on sub­si­dies.

Lim­ited dis­cus­sion has oc­curred around the liv­ing wage at lo­cal gov­ern­ment level, Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man Alan Liv­ingston said.

But his coun­cil has re­mained at arm’s-length from wage ne­go­ti­a­tions.

‘‘If we felt strongly about it, we could make it a con­di­tion of the con­tract but, of course, that would mean the con­tract would be cor­re­spond­ingly more but we haven’t dis­cussed any of that as yet,’’ Liv­ingston said.

That would see the cost of bus travel in­crease and would be re­flected in pas­sen­ger fares.

Once the pe­ti­tion is ac­cepted, he said, it will be given due con­sid­er­a­tion and put through the coun­cil process.

‘‘It’s a bit of a chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion be­cause ratepay­ers are ex­pect­ing the best value for ser­vice which in­cludes low­est cost. We have to be mind­ful of that as well.’’

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