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NZ Bus and Union issues drag on

One thing that came out on the weekend was that the bus drivers once again rejected the latest offer from NZ Bus. Here is the recent press release issued today by the company.

Mediation Confirms Final Offer

NZ Bus has been involved in negotiations with Tramways and First Union since May this year to agree a new Collective Agreement.
At Mediation today the Company confirmed its final offer. It has now reached agreement with the unions twice on what terms of the new collective should be. Both those agreements have been accepted by the unions and recommended by them to the members. The CTU have also been involved and Helen Kelly has recommended acceptance.

The latest recommendation for a settlement was accepted by about half the unions’ members in a ballot last week. Unfortunately, because the unions require a 60% vote the deal was not ratified.

The unions and the company returned to mediation today to discuss how to get past the problem that the on two occasions now deals which have been struck at the table, and recommended and endorsed by the unions, have not been supported by enough of their members. There comes a point where we cannot continue to increase the offer because we become uncompetitive.

It appears that some drivers will simply not accept that a fair or final deal has been struck until they have tested the company by taking industrial action. This is frustrating for both the company and the unions.

At mediation today the company again re-affirmed that it has made its best offer. Unfortunately, it appears that industrial action may now follow.

NZ Bus appreciates the work that the unions, and the CTU have been doing. They have achieved a position for their members where they will be the highest paid in bus drivers in Auckland. The company has already said that if there is any other collective agreement offered by a major operator in Auckland, then the company would consider it instead. In fact, the company and the unions know that this is the best deal available for drivers.

“Unfortunately there is an element within the unions that sees strike action as a key element in any negotiation. They seem hell bent on following that formula again this time around, which is a real shame because it’s our customers that pay the price” says Shane McMahon, COO NZ Bus

“It is time for the members to support their unions and bring these negotiations to a conclusion without inconveniencing the public or the half of the union membership that voted to accept the deal” concluded Mr. McMahon.

Key Facts:
Average Annual Income for bus drivers = $46,000
Average hours worked per driver = 43 per week
Drivers are paid overtime rates for hours worked above 40 hours per week
Almost all drivers employed in full time roles, and over half (525) work straight shifts
Under the agreement reached between company and unions drivers pay rate would rise to $20 per hour plus allowances – making them the highest paid drivers in Auckland
In addition to hourly rate, drivers also get allowances for broken shifts, meals and certain additional duties
Total wage bill for drivers per annum = $46million

At this stage we don’t know what industrial action is planned by the union but reports in the Herald the other day suggested that it could possibly include running services but not collecting fares. While that might boost patronage for those days, I just really want to see this issue resolved.

14 comments to NZ Bus and Union issues drag on

  • NZBus Driver

    Shane needs to get the facts straight, the problem is not the money it is the conditions that the company are changing. Shane and Zane need to pull their heads out of the sand and listen to the drivers when they do the problem will be resolved.

  • Stu Donovan

    Hi NZBus Driver – can you elaborate on the conditions that are changing?

    I’d be interested to know what drivers for the other bus companies think of NZ Bus’s offer? Is it good, bad, or ugly? How do the conditions and pay rates compare between companies?

    The reason I ask is that it’s always the NZ Bus drivers who strike. So is that because the company is ultra-nasty or is it because of rabid unionists? Or is the truth somewhere in between?

    If someone out there knows stuff then please share! We’d all like to know.

    • NZBus Driver

      Hi Stu

      The drivers don’t want to strike we want it sorted out as much as anybody.

      The drivers don’t want to be driving 5.5hrs straight without a break as this causes fatigue and increases the chance of accidents, and illness.

      Running to tight timetables resulting in buses running later than they already are causing passenger angst and driver stress levels to rise.

      And it goes on

      I would love to tell you more but Ian has detailed the rest.

  • glenda

    It is such a shame that Shane is hell bent on saying its the money ,I have seen enough bus drivers get upset over the conditions . NZ bus when are you going to stop trying to get the public on your side and realise that bus drivers are very concerned about the changes you are bringing in .

  • Ian

    Thinking of how to induce ann acceptable settlement.
    One driver has already pointed to the rosters and schedules need to be more realistic in terms of running times, less stress and acheivability. Reporting issues and creating the paper trail important to the bureaucracy has failed in the past and I have no faith in that system. Schedules and running times need to be more flexible and problem solving with running times needs a more proactive approach to fixing schedules far away from the realities of a passenger bus operating in Auckland traffic.

    This failure to address issues has led to some justifiable disillusionment with any promises management makes. The consequence is that stressful working conditions lead to a high turnover of new drivers, stress related illnesses by longer serving drivers and ever diminishing good will towards managerial decisions. The impression received in the drivers room is that management regards operators as mere units, little better than faulty machines.

    To address this gulf between administration and operators so as to gain ratification of a new award, a generous gesture on the part of management is required. Foremost to my mind is the stress issue. As drivers sacrifice a great deal of family time, social events and sleep so as to be available to serve as drivers, it behoves the management recognise this by reinstating the fifth week annual holiday. This would give drivers more flexibility in coping with those inevitable duties that family life imposes on everyone. While a driver may swap duties with another, the unsyncronised pattern of work times make meeting potential helpers stressful in itself.
    Allowing a five week annual leave cycle would encourage better rest and encourage a more productive, healthier work force. A gesture such as this would demonstrate managements recognition of the workforce as a whole person rather than just a labour unit.

    The existing contract demands a very high commitment from operators, not only in terms of the responsibility imposed by navigating a long, heavy vehicle through erratic traffic. High safety standards, time management, accurate cash handling, customer relations are some of the skills woven into the job along with the requirement to be available for times that ate anti-social and anti- family. These demands from the company are not being recogised.

    Recognition need not be in monetary compensation, but acknowledgement of time and effort given by giving time back.

    • Stu Donovan

      Thanks Ian very useful information. I had no idea the reliability/punctuality requirements were so onerous for drivers.

      As someone who works in PT planning I’d be interested to know whether a shift towards so-called “headway scheduling”, rather than timetables, would help you to reduce your stress levels. I note that in London most of the major routes simply advertise the average headway to passengers, rather than publishing a timetable.

      That means that reliability and punctuality issues are much more “contained” and – perhaps more importantly – become an issue for the company to manage, rather than the responsibility of the individual drivers to keep to a schedule that is highly variable from day to day. So if the company see a gap between services that exceeds the maximum advertised headway then it’s their responsibility to get a bus (e.g. shortrunner) out there to plug the gap.

      I also note that the proposed frequent network in the RPTP, which promises 15 min headways, which perhaps opens the door for headway based timetables in Auckland? How would the drivers think about that?

  • Tasi

    Great to have drivers concerns articulated on this forum for us bus users to read.

  • Mrs. Key

    The truth is out… ;)

  • mr bus user

    yes it is fair too say bus drivers are the brunt of unfair working conditions as a result of bad planning and rostering not only do they have to put up for a ungrateful public at times but a management team who appear to care but dont and will not listen to what drivers have to say it was never going to be a easy road for ratifying the collective agreement but it has got harder but what nz bus have set out and done with the new rosters etc and unrealistic timetables but i guess the time has come to settle the deal once and for all i dont pretend to have the answers but i do feel that there should be people in those positions of management that have at least bus industry experience and have a clue of whats going on

  • Mrs P Usher

    The drivers are bound by a company policy not to contact the media in any way to voice their concerns. Therefore are reluctant to comment on line. If you want the full story, take an effort to visit Britomart and talk to the drivers and hear their concerns. They will tell you, it is not all about the money, it’s about the changes of conditions without consultation. Just prior to these negotiations drivers of several depots were severely aggravated by changes to their shifts and all without proper consultation. The work conditions are being altered on the left for a bit more money on the right. That is not a pay-rise, it’s an internal trade-off. This is where the rejection comes in and this is where this company has a problem to solve.

  • NZBs Driver

    No mr bus user nobody in management has any public transport industry experience and in fact have never driven a bus and more than likely have never ridden in a bus. Maybe they should do our job for a week by themselves under the same conditions that we do and maybe then they will see that what they are asking is ludicrous.

  • Shore Driver

    I have to agree with the other drivers, it is not about money, I am far more concerned about the length of shifts and running times some of these have in the past been impossible and with our new duty changes on the Shore still impossible.

    Ian you mentioned that perhaps if we had a fifth week annual leave that this would give drivers more flexibility in coping with those inevitable duties that family life imposes on everyone, I was recently talking to a fellow driver in my depot he said he had just been and spoken to his DS regarding his roster changes and was telling the DS that it really gives him no time with his family and the DS response was “well this isn’t a job for a family man”, so fat chance of that mattering.

  • Glenn C

    NZ Bus drivers have yet again rejected the companies latest proposed contract offer. 407 votes rejected the offer – 391 votes accepted.
    As a blatant threat the Unions suggested that drivers may not take fares from passengers which would only force a lockout by the company ceasing 70% of bus services Auckland wide indefinitely. NZ Bus have offered $19.15 not the $20.00 as printed in many media outlets.

    When you compare their current wages to Veolia conductors who do not drive the trains, only clip tickets then it is possible understand their ongoing concerns. Here’s some comparisons to see who’s kidding who…..

    NZ BUS – $18.75 per hr. (4 weeks annual leave) Current.
    VEOILA – $21.75 per hr (5 weeks annual leave)

    NZ BUS overtime @ time and a quarter (23.45) ORDINARY TIME Sat / Sun.

    VEOILA – overtime @ time and a half (30.72) Sundays double time (40.96)

    HOWICK and EASTERN BUSES – $18.55 per hr. Overtime @ time and a half (27.82) Sundays @ time and a half (27.82)

    BIRKENHEAD BUSES – $19.34 per hr. Overtime @ time and a half (29.01) Sundays @ time and a half (29.01) These drivers are the highest paid in Auckland per hr.

    RITCHIES – $18.05 per hr. (less then NZ Bus but with interesting conditions and a new 7.2% x2 year wage rise) Night shift allowance ($30 per shift tax free) $1250 a yr accident free bonus.

    NZ BUS WELLINGTON (same company and union) Lower hourly rate, but overtime @ time and a half (24.67) Saturdays the same but after 8 hours (32.90) Sundays @ double time (32.90) They also gain time and a half for CDOs and after 4 hours double time (32.90) + shift allowances of $8.75 per day.

    Many of the NZ BUS Auckland drivers will work 5 out of 8 weekends – at least a Saturday or Sunday, meaning they sacrifice quality time with their families and children for gainful employment working demanding shift work hours. It is obvious then from the above figures that the public transport competitors in Auckland place a higher value on their staff driving overtime and/or Sundays.

    Why doesn’t NZ BUS in Auckland? Why do they need to stage a pathetic media campaign based on false information?

    If you worked an 8hr day on a Sunday at NZ BUS in Auckland you would earn $153.20 driving a large passenger vehicle around the metropolitan streets where the loading numbers have increased markedly and timetables are ridiculously tight on weekends placing greater pressure on drivers to perform.
    Compare that to H&E $222.56, or BIRKENHEAD $232.08, a whopping $70 more! The Wellington drivers are at $263.20 – $110 more then NZ Bus in Auckland – SAME company and union….seriously?
    But VEOILA…..$325.76. Amazing.

    NZ BUS have offered time and a half on CDOs from the middle of next year, but that will effect very few drivers and not very often – a token gesture, therefore they seem determined to push conditions and wages down and drag the Auckland drivers LOWER then the competition based on overtime and weekend work. But why? If you want the strongest workforce wouldn’t you be prepared to provide the best possible wages and conditions?

    407 said no. They believe this company can and should allow their front line people to earn a decent living, especially based on the ongoing success, sustainability and profitability of the company in this city. 391 said yes, but I would suggest many of that number are sick and tired of the divide and conquer mentality of these drawn out, protracted negotiations and just can’t see an end in sight. it is no wonder that many high quality experienced drivers at NZ Bus are now looking to get out of the industry and investigate their options on better paying jobs or in Australia. Don’t just sit back with your feet up on the table swearing at the negotiation team on Skype Mr Fulljames….stand up as a man and deliver real progress to your people….pay them a fair decent wage to put them at the top of this industry in Auckland as they deserve to be. Anything less is a corporate cop-out.

    I believe the ratio of drivers for acceptance of the offer may now swing back the other way as they unite to fight an ongoing battle – this is not over by a long way. Stu Donovan, please check your facts before publishing the companies rhetoric that NZ Bus drivers are the highest paid in the industry. The aforementioned suggests otherwise.

  • Glenn C

    Sorry Stu, apologies, I jumped the gun….Matt L published the headline story……but it is definitely also about the money, otherwise this fight wouldn’t have gone on for so long. However, the conditions are ludicrous and a major issue as stated by the drivers above. Lets just keep to the facts and keep them accurate. I guarantee mine are.

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