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Bus Strikes back on

Now this is just getting silly. Last week the bus drivers unions agreed to a deal with NZ Bus which saw their planned strikes called off but interestingly the bus drivers who met today decided to reject that offer. I don’t know what they are now demanding but it is very odd for the union leaders themselves to agree to a deal and recommend it but then have the members turn it down. This of course leaves commuters in the lurch once again and happens at a pretty critical time for PT in this city with things like the new bus network about to be consulted on which will also mean new contracts for the bus operators. Here is the press release from NZ Bus and understandably they seem frustrated:

Bus Drivers Vote Down Offer to be Highest Paid in Auckland

In a bizarre twist today drivers voted against the wage offer from NZ Bus, which was recommended by Tramways and First Union leadership and supported by Helen Kelly at the Council of Trade Unions.

Today’s ratification meeting was attended by only 517 of the 818 union drivers with more than one third not attending the meeting.

The parties met last Wednesday in mediation where NZ Bus, Tramways and First Union leaders agreed financial terms for ratification at today’s meeting. Both Tramways and First Union leadership agreed the offer was a good one and that they would positively recommend the offer at today’s ratification meeting.

Tramways and First Union had been engaged in industrial action ‘working to rule’ and NZ Bus had worked hard to minimise the impact on customers.

“ We managed to have the unions lift full blown strike action by giving them what they asked for in order to prevent impact on customers and today they turn around and reject an offer the union executive endorsed” Shane McMahon concluded.

“Negotiating with this group is a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s hugely frustrating – we worked very hard to see their point of view, worked constructively with them and reached agreement which they endorsed and then they vote it down”, said Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus.

NZ Bus operates Metrolink, City Link, Inner Link, Outer Link, North Star, Waka Pacific and Go West brands in Auckland. NZ Bus would like to apologise to customers in advance should the unions choose to escalate industrial action.

48 comments to Bus Strikes back on

  • Ingolfson

    Didn’t the Herald report that this was because NZ Bus had also changed (apparently at last minute) a number of rules for working overtime and weekends? Now I ain’t able to comment on whether those changes are enough to make it stupid to reject the pay offer – but if it happened: adding last-minute changes into an “agreed deal” and then saying “take it or leave it” is always a good way to piss someone off!

  • Zane Fulljames

    Just to be clear , nothing was changed by NZ Bus in negotiations at the last minute. We worked very hard to try to reach agreement with the union – in fact we did! We tried very hard to move our peoples wages forward to the top of the industry – in fact we did! We tried very hard to establish a forum where parties could work collectively on reducing issues that matter to all of like broken shifts – in fact we did! The union executive took the jointly agreed deal out to their 818 members recommending acceptance – 265 for 352 against 191 drivers did not attend.

    We have been working with the union in a consultative process to imprive the scehduling and rostering of duties in Northstar and City depots with the explicit aims of improving reliability of services and utilisation along with reducing broken shifts. The fact that the union have brought this matter into the conversation as to why they voted the agreement down is interesting but not surprising.

    Zane Fulljames
    CEO NZ Bus

  • zane fulljames

    Apologies for the typos ..slightly distracted when submitting :-)

  • Bing

    As much as I like taking the train, not looking forward to having to get up before 6am and leave before Im normally even awake to walk to the train station and be at uni before 8am =(

  • Trev

    This could be good for the CRL.

    • max

      Uh, how? The CRL trains aren’t exactly going to be driverless, so the benefit totally escapes me.

    • Trev

      Isn’t it obvious? Bus passengers shift to rail, like it, stick with it. Rail patronage gets out of its current lull and that helps boost the case for the CRL.

      OK, slightly desperate search for a silver lining, but let’s see your positive spin on it?

      • That is possible. I became a fan of rail partly because of the 2005 Stagecoach Auckland bus strike when I had to take the train to uni and was very impressed at rail’s ability to absorb the extra passengers and still run trains more or less to schedule. If I recall correctly I only had one rail delay during the entire week of the bus strike despite patronage being much higher than usual. Prior to the bus strike I took buses everywhere and after the strike I started using rail where I could.

  • Ian

    How much will drivers earn per hour under the proposed collective?

  • Jon Reeves

    Zane, thanks for your comments here. Good to get the NZ Bus side of the story.

  • Owen Thompson

    This is a clear attempt to destroy the union membership at NZ Bus, just like at POAL. Non-ratification sends a clear message to company management that staff expect better conditions. Waiting for notice of picket action on the next nine Monday’s.

    • Owen,

      Not sure how agreeing to what union demanded at mediation last week, taking our people to the highest rate in the city and agreeing to work collectively with the union on matters that are important to members and the company is a clear attempt to destroy union membership. The reality is we are supportive of the unions role in our business.

      In terms of strike notices these were issued by union on Monday which means no services will run on consecutive mondays.

      Unfortunately this will impact Aucklanders, our customers and our people at a time when PT is growing in AKL.

      Warm Regards
      Zane Fulljames
      CEO NZ BUS

  • There are a quite a few of us for whom the train is not an option, and the bus works well. This is going to be a real mess at least for several of us who currently ride from Pukekohe to the City on the bus. I will have to drive in on the Mondays – and my parking costs added to petrol will mean $50/day. The work-to-rule may well mean my wife driving 50Km from Pukekohe to pick me up if the bus doesn’t show, or is so late that I cannot take it.

    I was so happy when the union leadership agreed to a settlement – and dismayed when the membership rejected it. I have the greatest sympathy for the difficulties of the drivers – have been a bus-rider from Pukekohe since the beginning of 1985.

    What a mess!

    jj

    • Owen Thompson

      Work to rule only means doing what the contract tells you to do. Interesting that by employees promising to obey the contract, the employer feels threatened. One point I have heard is that there is meant to be a 5min interval between the driver finishing one run and starting the next. This is so the bus can be checked for damage, paperwork completed, et al. Of course, if the first bus is late, then this does not happen and the driver is automatically in breach of their contract. .

      • Zane Fulljames

        Owen

        We are delighted that our staff will follow procedure and are not “threatened” by work to rule . However the strike action commencing Monday is not work to rule it is full blown industrial action that will see drivers not working at all between the hours of 4am Monday and 2am Tuesday.

        Warm Regards
        Zane Fulljames
        CEO NZ Bus

    • Chris Randal

      John you can always catch a train from Pukekohe or drive to Papakura and train from there.

    • gregmcraenz

      Thank you John. 43% of us voted to accept and we’re pretty gutted as well. That’s getting on for half of us (considerably more than 43% at some depots) with no interest in going on strike or inconveniencing our passengers. And it means a bit more than $50 per day for us. We’re also a bit miffed at not being allowed to vote separately on the work to rule and the monday strikes – We were only given one motion (that previous action resume) and if you wanted to work to rule but not strike you had to vote against it, No chance …

  • David O

    Not sure what the legal implications would be in NZ, but I remember back in France in the 1990s. while London tube drivers were doing the old-skool strike thing, in-dispute French railway union workers were running a full service, but without collecting any fares. Keeps the customers onside, and makes the employer close the system – their choice – not the workers. In any case, hits the company with whom the workforce have a grievance, not the customers. Interesting bit of lateral thinking.

  • Chris Randal

    I think that the law that allows strikes needs to change to require a 90% turnout before a vote can go ahead.

    • Owen Thompson

      Do you enjoy living on Planet Key? You suggest a 90% turnout for workers’, yet in a general election it is far less than that. In fact, there is no minimum number of voters to ensure a legal result. Why should we have a two-tiered system?

  • Publius

    The law should prohibit striking where striking would cause serious public disturbance out of proportion to the costs the employer itself would face.
    Why should a bus union be able to use the public as a lever but a fast food union can’t?
    If a fast food union strikes the only significant consequence is the company loses revenue.
    But if a bus union strikes they have no problem causing serious disruption for the public which is a lever that shouldn’t be available to them.
    By all means don’t check tickets for the day (company loses revenue public not disrupted) but this action is just wanton disruption.
    Furthermore it just pushes the privatisation agenda further along. Why do people think right-leaning govts want roads not rail — because rail/etc requires people to work together, roads allows independence — and history has shown that unions if given the power will work to destroy their own industry. Why do businesses want to use road freight? Because trucks are mostly owner-operated so they can’t strike and are fully reliable.
    The law needs to be harsher to allow the future to be a brighter one for all.

    • Wilfully not collecting fares would probably be held to be serious misconduct, with all the potential consequences thereof. Taking away the right to strike is a very, very big step and removes the biggest weapon from the unions’ arsenal.

      Consider this: any unionised workforce, even the emergency and medical services, can go out on strike. What on earth makes public transport more important than literal life-and-death industries? Industries that aren’t working to further the profit of a private entity, too!

      • PS: safe workplaces, holiday pay and sick leave, all won by those awful unions. The demise of NZ’s wage parity with Aus coincides neatly with the demolition of unions and collective bargaining in this country. Think about that.

        • Owen Thompson

          Agree completely Matt. The boss class did not just willingly hand out annual leave, sick leave, et al. Workers used to have no paid annual leave, result being no-one took leave.

          A few years ago employers were dead against an increase to 4 weeks A/L. Yet now the issue has faded and employers cope.

          Striking is the workers’ ultimate action and not entered into lightly.

        • Publius

          I agree that the unions did win much that society can be grateful for as you stated, but I would like to see striking used for serious problems.
          For example in the UK the tube drivers went on strike because people had been throwing rocks/etc off overpasses onto trains and management weren’t taking the issue of driver safety seriously.
          So I would have it in law that any strike that would cause serious public nuisance to be illegal without first getting approval of a court (or some such arbitrator) that would decide whether the issue to be striking over is serious enough to warrant the public disruption.
          So if driver safely is at stake by all means strike, just don’t strike because of wanting a pay increase.
          I have all sympathy to unions/employees about their pay/etc but I don’t believe the correct response is to use public disruption as a lever.

          • Which still leaves all the power in the hands of the employer on all matters except safety, taking us back to my original point: we even allow people to strike when their doing so could result in deaths. I just don’t consider public transport to be more important than that, though I do agree with Zane’s point that the notice period should probably be extended to allow some attempt at mitigation of the effects.

      • Zane Fulljames

        Matt,

        Good point however emergency and medical are listed as “essential services” which means their is greater lead time in terms of when a strike notice is issued to when it cam take effect allowing more opportunity to either resolve or plan contingencies.

        In PT the unions can take action 24hrs after issuing strike notices.

        Warm Regards
        Zane Fulljames

        In

        • Richard

          Since you’re still reading Zane… You seem to have 352 unhappy employees. In all respectful seriousness, why is this? If you’re offering the best pay rates for bus drivers in Auckland and “We tried very hard to establish a forum where parties could work collectively on reducing issues that matter to all of like broken shifts” (what does this mean? To my cynical ear it sounds like you haven’t done anything about broken shifts). There must be a reason.

      • SteveD

        For what it’s worth, sworn police aren’t allowed to strike.

        I agree with Publius’s principle, for critical services. But the public transport system isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s incredibly inconvenient, but the taxis and ambulances are still running, for anyone in an emergency. Anyway, good luck to the Tramways Union! $20/hr. isn’t much, especially when it really works out to less because you’re not paid for the middle of a split shift.

        • Sworn officers are kind-of not allowed to strike. They cannot legally withdraw all labour, but the law defines refusing to carry out certain duties as being a strike so they can still strike by doing things like refusing to transfer prisoners and refusing to respond to reports of historic burglaries. The legally-mandated minimum is a response to events where:
          (a) people are injured or in danger; or
          (b) there is a serious, immediate, or imminent risk to life or property; or
          (c) a crime is being or has just been committed and the offenders are still at the scene or have just left

  • Zane Fulljames

    Richard

    Supporting the proposed network changes, supporting increased frequency , improving reliability, accurate real time information management, joint revision of timetables to reflect reality of operating environment, rostering and scheduling changes are all in an effort to reduce shifts which is an industry issue not just an NZ Bus issue.

    Warm Regards
    Zane

  • Peter M

    Zane, once again thank you for taking the time to comment here – we really appreciate it.

    The obvious question that I think is on everyone’s mind is what efforts are being made to sort something out so we can avoid chaos next Monday and what do you think the chances of success might be? It seems like the numbers weren’t that far off supporting the deal so perhaps with a few very minor tweaks we can see a solution that ends up good for everyone, before we see a strike on Monday. Or am I just being overly optimistic?

  • Zane Fulljames

    Peter ,

    We worked very hard to avert Industrial Action by conceding to the demands the union executive had on the table . We even offered an additional increase to $20.40 an hour in exchange for an expiry of July 15 which would have provided certainty to our people, stability in the operating environment and surety for customers . This was after we had agreed to accelerate the increase to $20 per hour to Dec 13 and time and a half for CDO to July 13. The union executive rejected this offer an took the offer as you have read out to the members.

    At the end if the day we have to balance out real desire to move wages forward and improve the environment for our people, certainty for the traveling public and our need to deliver satisfactory returns. We have invested over $90m in new fleet in Auckland, implemented the link services, built new facilities upgraded existing ones , investing heavily in training and Health and Safety programs etc and at the end of the day need to be competitive.

    The offer the union took out to members placed us in an uncompetitive position in terms of labour rates but we were confident that we could work with out people and the union to deliver the best passenger transport business in NZ.

    Unfortunately not all have recognized that there is no more room for error here.

    Warm Regards
    Zane Fulljames

  • Hamish O

    New offer from NZ Bus:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/transport/news/article.cfm?c_id=97&objectid=10835399

    It seems they are being quite generous now.

    I hope the Unions will downgrade the strike to another voting meeting over this.

  • Ejtma

    I feel this latest offer shows that NZ Bus still has money in the tin, I am not a huge fan of unions, but side with them on this occasion. NZ Bus have taken advantage of Aucklanders for too long, and I think they should front up and settle the dispute. The whole snapper debacle they instigated has left a very sour taste in my mouth, and now with their handling of a dispute which could have been settled a long time ago by making a fair offer, I can only hope the council reduces their contract when it comes up.

    It seems that other companies just don’t have these issues, the common denominator is NZ Bus, time they went I think.

    • Owen Thompson

      You hate unions, but I bet you take the benefits they gained for you eg annual leave, sick leave, meal breaks, workplace safety, et al. Employer class did not just hand these out when they were feeling generous.

      • Ejtma

        I suggest you read my comment before writing your vitriole, I never said I hate unions, I said I am not a huge fan. I acknowledge unions have a place, but I don’t agree with some of their practices. The ports of Auckland dispute and the well documented actions of the unions there is a very good example.

  • Uncle Nico

    Wanna know what it’s like to be a busdriver???????
    (most of you will pass this message within 1.5 seconds!)

    I wake up at 6am to be at work just before 7am. I come home at 8pm and get paid 8 hrs for this. I have dinner without meat because i can’t afford any. In my 4 hour break i hang around the depot and have a sleep in the car because my petrol budget per week is only $50.00. There is no cantine in the depot so i take sandwiches or get a $2.20 pie for lunch. Cannot afford McCafe! I’m forced to do 5.5 hrs shifts without being able (like truckies or many of you here!) to get to a toilet anywhere on my run. There is no toilet on the end at Swanson and there is no time to get to one at Britomart because i’ll be starting late on my next run. Most airconditioned buses makes me cough because i’m asthmatic. My passengers make me cough as well because they spread theirs through the bus. Although asthmatic, i still only get 5 days a year sickleave. My damp and mouldy flat of two rooms makes me cough as well and i can’t afford to move. Every WOF for my $500.00 worth 1982 Nissan Bluebird gives me the creeps in fear of losing it. I will not be able to afford a new car. Without a car i loose my job because at 6.30am there are no buses for me to get to work. I have never seen a flatscreen TV. Can’t afford on but i’ll bet you Zane has one… My flat is filled with second hand furniture and hand outs. My 4 weeks holiday is split in two and is spend looking at the rain outside because i can’t afford to go to the Gold Coast. I usually end up broke in this period of time anyway. I get free bread from the day before via church and eat a lot of instant noodles. NO! I don’t smoke and i don’t drink.I am a weekend Dad of 3 girls. My outings are a cheaply filled picknick basket , pick up the kids and spend mostly at Western Springs Park because it doesn’t cost me anything. Luckely my kids are young and love ducks and geese…. I have a special needs daughter of 9 who has a brain disorder and i spend about 15 days a year with her on hospital visits. Most of it is “leave without pay”.
    I worked redicoules hours without asking questions to back up failing trains at the Rugby World Cup for my miserable management. I take 75 kids from Ponsonby Intermediate home safely daily in my bendy. Never had a “thank you” card from the parents…. I get …here it comes… an allowens of..$0.27 per day….for driving this bigger bus. .I, lucky me: that will go up to $0.28 in the future…WoooW!!.. My broken shift allowens earns me about $25.00 a week! (woow!!) I bring home $578.43 a week after childsupport but my running cost are $590.00 I’m on a $50.00 food budget a week. Anyone on this blog who can top this without going insane….. ?? I didn’t think so either! We busdrivers do a good community job out there and get paid peanuts. Time for us to “move up in the World” I like my job because i like being around people. But i would like to be able to spend a Birthday for my kids without having to deny myself a week of food! Got it???????

    • Thanks Nico. Spilt shifts are a terrible thing, I used to work these in restaurants in London, three hours of hanging out in Soho and Covent Garden might sound like fun but not when you’re broke and exhausted and have nothing but 8 uninterrupted hours of work ahead of you having already done the day shift.

      Essentially you’re on the job for 13 hours and paid for 8. I’d probably be on strike over conditions like that.

  • Tasi

    Good on ya Nico!

    While the majority of the comments on this post has been about the “inconvenience” to commuters, for the drivers it is often about being paid to make ends meet.

    My grandfather was a bus driver for many years. As kids, we always loved spending time with my grandfather because he’d take us to places like Western Springs, One Tree Hill, Totara Park – inexpensive, but always fun-filled. Looking back I’ve realised that doing those inexpensive family trips was partly a result of my grandfather having to work long hours for little pay.

    I am now a professional working in an inner city corporate firm. It maybe an inconvenience for me this coming Monday, but I know that some bus driver will hopefully be able to spend more time with his kids/grandkids as a result of the strike action they are having to take.

  • Uncle Nico

    I’m really glad with the fact that my regular passengers have always supported us even with the inconvenience of a strike. This is my second strike in 10 years by the way. When we go out for some time my passengers wish me well and hope for a better deal. Spin-doctoring by the management in the media does not deter them from their support for the drivers. Most of my passengers are inner city “office workers” and have Internet and a brain to see through the smoke screen erected by de Company to make the bus-company look like the victim. People are not vain although many a manager think they are….. Putting 40 cents on top and promising it to us in Dec 2014 has as much meaning as promising us $35 an hour in 2028…….. None..no meaning at all. $20.40 in Dec 2014 is peanuts then and it’s another fruitless attempt to shift the goalposts for the next round of talks …

  • Glenn C

    NZ Bus drivers are the best in the business and deserve every cent they can get out of the company. They are loyal, yet passionate individuals that apply themselves to their task wholeheartly every day and love what they do….surely no two days are ever the same, but they do operate under pathetic timetables and rosters that place undue pressure on them. They have to contend with a range of difficult circumstances daily and yet drive an 18 tonne vehicle through the busy streets of Auckland while managing a large and diverse group of people! If the CEO Mr Fulljames travelled via his own buses regularly, and particually at night as I do then he would surely be committed to putting in place a consultation process that would enable drivers to have their say and aim to improve conditions for them, therefore improving the entire service. After seeing a driver break up a nasty fight between two women on the bus the other night and contend with drunks and the mentialy ill all on one trip as well as smart mouthed individuals, plus avoid a crash right in front I have the upmost respect for them. Kia Kaha to all the Metrolink, Go West, Northstar and Waka Pacific drivers. You deserve better from your bosses.

  • Uncle Nico

    The threat of the council contacting Richies to cover Dominion road, New North and Sandringham is real and “all bus drivers at this company” should be worried about that. One thing is for sure: the Unions and the company had this stick firmly up their butt to get something sorted. And nobody wants depots with lost jobs, look at the Port of Auckland. All i can see every day is empty docks with no ships in it. And the workers still have nothing achieved. The company was threatened by the drivers to do more, that’s for sure. I’m curiously optimistic about the full picture of the new deal with keeping my job with a little more in my pocket but be warned, it’s like the Rolling Stones Song: “You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes, well you might find,
    You get what you need” …… and what we need is a pay-rise, better working conditions and a job for the future…. and i am quietly optimistic that we achieved some of this. ;)

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