13 Aug 2018

Waikato bus drivers striking over pay and working conditions

6:17 pm on 13 August 2018

Bus drivers in the Waikato say they're being forced to drive unsafe buses.

A Go Bus Hamilton commuter bus.

A Go Bus Hamilton commuter bus. Photo: SUPPLIED

One hundred and twenty Go Bus drivers from Hamilton, Otorohanga, and Te Awamutu will strike tomorrow from 5.30am through to midnight over what they say are unfair pay and working conditions.

The strike will affect Hamilton city bus services and Te Awamutu and Otorohanga school bus services.

Among the changes bus drivers want to see are wages increased to at least the living wage of $20.55.

FIRST Union's Jax Oldham said the ageing bus fleet is also a major issue for drivers.

"When Go Bus took over a contract from Pavlovich they took on a whole bunch of old and unreliable buses, which they've kept and haven't really maintained to the highest quality.

"The drivers are just refusing to drive them because of the safety [concerns], not only for themselves but the public as well, she said.

Ms Oldham said drivers have been asked to jam brooms in sporadically opening doors, duct-tape steering wheels, and to drive buses they have refused to drive due to electrical and mechanical faults.

She added there was one incident earlier this year where a small girl's head became stuck in an emergency door that needed repairs.

She was concerned the buses, which union members are refusing to drive, are instead being forced on workers who are new or are non-union members.

"There are guys who are just starting the job and are on a trial basis, so they're not wanting to create a conflict and put their jobs in jeopardy, just for making a stand," she said.

Ms Oldham said the drivers were also fighting for respect from management.

But Go Bus said it was is growing increasingly frustrated by First Union's unwillingness to engage in negotiations and added strike action was unnecessary.

Chief operating officer of Go Bus, Nigel Piper said the company had offered pay increases of between 1.5 percent and 5.6 percent for drivers.

"First Union continues to show no respect for bus passengers and responded to our offer by extending the duration of what was going to be a six-hour strike, to an all-day strike," he said.

When asked about the safety concerns from drivers about the condition of the buses, Mr Piper said he was only told pay was the reasoning behind the strike.

Passengers can check www.busit.co.nz to see if their service will be affected.