14 Aug 2018

Striking Go Bus drivers earn $17.68 an hour

From Checkpoint, 5:15 pm on 14 August 2018

As bus drivers in Waikato strike for better pay, there's confusion about what they do actually earn.

Go Bus was earlier adamant that no driver earned just $17 an hour but has now spoken out to say some drivers earn $17.68. 

Bus driver.

It has been revealed that school bus drivers are earning as little as $17.68. Photo: 123rf

During an interview on Morning Report today, Go Bus chief operating officer Nigel Piper said no drivers earned $17 an hour.

"No, no, look we've got no one on $17 an hour," Mr Piper told Morning Report.

Hours later, Checkpoint's John Campbell was leaked details of payroll information from a source, containing details of bus drivers' wages.

Mr Piper said he had interpreted the question to be whether drivers were earning exactly $17.00 an hour.

"Well I took the question to be are they earning $17 an hour as in 17.00 in which case that is - I didn't look at it in terms of are they earning 17.35 or 17.68. I looked at 17 as in the number 17," he said.

However, he did tell Checkpoint that some earned near that amount.

"We've got drivers earning $17.35 an hour who are new entrant drivers. And we have school drivers earning $17.68."

First Union who was with drivers, both of school bus routes and urban bus routes, at the picket line where drivers were striking over their pay today, said the top pay rate among them was $19 an hour.

Four of the drivers on the picket line told Checkpoint that they earned $17.68.

Mr Piper said that wage was reflective of the market rate.

"I think it's a wage that is being paid within the industry, whether it's adequate, I don't know. It is an industry that's very competitive."

He said that often school bus drivers did earn near the lower end of the pay scale for drivers.

"Generally that is the case, it's usually the cheapest, lowest price conforming tender usually wins, and I think the government tendering rules require that," he said.

Ministry of Education's website stated that it "is the second largest provider of passenger services in New Zealand. This includes: managing approximately 7000 vehicle journeys each school day".

First Union spokesperson Jared Abbott said the ministry could not stand by and let drivers continue to earn so little. 

"We've met with the Ministry of Education and have a really disappointing response from them. They seem completely oblivious to the moral obligation they have around these drivers," Mr Abbott said.

"The reality is that people on those shcool bus contracts are actually the most disadvantaged," he said.

"They're dealing with a lot of children, you wouldn't put 30 children in a classroom and pay someone $17 an hour but you put 30 children in a bus.

"The bus driver actually has a responsibility to focus on driving and getting the children somewhere safe, you've got all these children in the bus without seat belts, unsupervised, no-one to look over them, and the bus drivers are required to do all that work but are paid like the worst workers in New Zealand."

The Ministry of Education's head of education infrastructure Service Kim Shannon released a statement in response saying the ministry contracts about 70 transport companies to provide transport services for students at a cost of around $185 million a year.

The statement also added that the present contract with Go Bus has been in place since 2008 and did not set any wage requirements above those set in law. 

The wage rates were agreed between employees and employers and that the ministry did not request or hold the breakdown of costs that go into pricing, such as staff pay rates or profit margins, the statement read.