10 Nov 2017

Auckland Transport workers protest job cuts and pay

5:50 pm on 10 November 2017

Unions representing train and bus drivers have presented Auckland Transport with two petitions today: one appealing for hundreds of jobs not to be lost, and another calling for better pay and work conditions.

Rail and Train union delegates protest at Auckland Viaduct.

Rail and Train union delegates protest at Auckland Viaduct. Photo: RNZ / Bridget Mills

The union and its delegates formed a small protest at the Auckland Viaduct today, before heading a few blocks away to hand the petitions - both with more than 5000 signatures each - to the main Auckland Transport office.

The Rail and Maritime Union is concerned more than 200 jobs will be lost when Auckland Transport and Transdev push ahead with plans to replace "train managers" with "transport officers".

The employers are negotiating with the union at the moment, and are planning to bring in transport officers, who will be armed with more powers (each person will be warranted by the Commissioner of the Police) allowing them to issue fines and deal with anti-social or violent behaviour.

The plan means that there will not always be a train manager, or transport officer, on every train.

The union said this will compromise passenger safety.

Stuart Johnstone, the organiser for Rail and Maritime Union, said there will be trains with only one driver and hundreds of people on board.

Mr Johnstone said that the replacement transport officers will not be able to stop anti-social behaviour any more than the current train managers.

"They're not going to be empowered to stop anti-social behaviour, they're warranted officers but they have no powers of arrest or detention. So when trouble starts they're going to duck for cover... they'll be phoning the police the same as our train managers do now."

"Our train managers are the happy face, they're there for the safety and aide of the passengers and it'd be a shame to lose that."

Workers ask for fairer pay and better conditions

Delegates from Rail and Maritime Union hold stack of more than 5000 signatures.

Delegates from Rail and Maritime Union hold stack of more than 5000 signatures. Photo: RNZ / Bridget Mills

Also at today's protest was the union representing bus drivers.

A bus driver and the lead delegate for the First Union, Phil Morgan, said his members want a better tendering process for bus companies, which would lead to fairer pay and better work conditions.

He said there are different bus companies across Auckland, offering different wages and different conditions - some better than others.

"And where have the majority of the tenders gone in Auckland? They've gone to companies that have eroded driver conditions... and told them there'd be no wage rise because we can't afford it, we've got to win the tender to get the job."

He and his delegates also delivered a pile of signed petitions to Auckland Transport - signed by bus drivers and passengers.

Now that Labour are in government, Phil Morgan said he's feeling more optomistic that unions will have a better chance at negotiating better, fairer contracts.

"We know these people, a lot of them who are at the top of the government now are ex-unionists themselves. So they know where we're coming from, they know what we're fighting for. We fighting for the rights of workers."

'Safety is a key focus'

Auckland Transport Metro Operations group manager, Brendon Main, came out of the AT offices to greet the two unions, and accept the petitions.

"It's important that we read over it and consider it," he told media afterwards.

"We'll have a chance to read over those and use them as part of the consultation that's underway at the moment."

And Mr Main said plans to replace train managers with transport officers will have not put passenger safety at risk.

"Safety is a key focus and the deployment of transport officers across the network is a key part of that," he said AT will target the trains that need people the most, "rather than having us have somebody across every train every day, we're able to utulise 230 transport officers to put them in the areas of the day and the services that most need them"

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs