Bus drivers march for living wage
‘‘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.’’