5 May 2017

Wellington bus drivers 'in the dark' about new operator

7:11 pm on 5 May 2017

Wellington bus drivers are worried bringing a new company in to manage the city's buses could threaten their jobs.

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Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Masterton-based Tranzit Group has been nominated as preferred tenderer for eight Wellington contracts while Uzabus from Palmerston North was thought likely to take a contract covering Kāpiti.

NZ Council of Trade Union (NZ CTU) President - Richard Wagstaff,

Richard Wagstaff Photo: Supplied

A final decision will be confirmed next month while negotiations kick into gear between the regional council and their preferred tenderers.

NZ Bus will go from operating 73 percent of Wellington's buses to just 28 percent, while Mana would go from 25 percent to 5 percent.

Council of Trade Unions national president Richard Wagstaff said there were concerns Tranzit and Uzabus did not offer good wages for bus drivers.

He said in a tender like this one bus drivers had been cut out of a process where their conditions of work were being set.

"It is a commercial process which is designed to keep consultants and bankers happy but really it keeps workers disempowered and in the dark," he said.

"And [this] results in an exercise which has become all too cynical. One where there is large-scale restructuring resulting in cuts in jobs, cuts in pay, and massive consultancy packages and that is exactly what it looks like we have got here again in Wellington."

Mr Wagstaff said bus drivers were left in the dark because the council refused to bind tender winners to keeping drivers on their previous contracts.

 Paul Snelgrove - managing director of Tranzit Group

Paul Snelgrove - managing director of Tranzit Group Photo: Supplied

"That was a choice the council has made for train operators.

"That is a choice that they were invited to make in setting this tender but they refused to, though being asked over and over by the union movement and the tramways union."

Wellington Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw said Tranzit had a solid employment record and drivers would not have their wages cut.

Chris Laidlaw

Chris Laidlaw Photo: RNZ

"They stacked up extremely well in terms of economies of scale.

"They are a family-owned company. They are a big company and they have a lot of resources and they are a very efficient company."

He said there was a clear understanding Tranzit would employ drivers from previous tenderers such as NZ Bus and Mana, which had unsuccessful bids.

He said it was Tranzit Group's promise to build 228 Euro 6 low-emission diesel vehicles that convinced councillors they were the best option.

"So they have managed to extract efficiencies it would seem some of the other tenderers were unable to do and that is why their price is more competitive."

"While it will be diesel, it will result in a - in the short run - a 38 percent reduction in emissions," he said. "That is a really quite substantial shift.

"None of the other tenders came close to that."

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