29 Aug 2018

Wellington bus driver shares concern over rest breaks

6:44 pm on 29 August 2018

A Wellington bus driver told the Employment Relations Authority today that rest breaks need to be scheduled into the roster.

Left to right - Simon Meikle, Warren Derbie and Kevin O'Sullivan .

Simon Meikle, Warren Derbie and Kevin O'Sullivan. Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Upper Hutt driver Warren Derbie said two paid rest breaks, 10 to 15 minutes long, should be included in the roster as sometimes there was no time to take a break during the day.

His contract with Tranzurban was on a "take it or leave it basis" when the company won the tender to operate buses in the Hutt Valley, Mr Derbie said.

He previously worked for NZ Bus and told the Authority his concerns about the breaks were shared with his colleagues.

In his contract there was one unpaid 30-minute meal break, but no provisions for paid rest breaks.

But Tranzurban - part of the Tranzit group - said there were points along the route where the driver could stop for eight to 20 minutes and rest.

Tranzit human resources and legal director for Renee Snelgrove said the shifts were "fantastically designed and allowed for sufficient rest breaks for drivers".

Drivers had been provided with a padlock and a backpack so they could lock the cashbox and take it with them if they needed to exit the bus, Ms Snelgrove said.

"[Drivers] were also given a thermos," she said.

But if bus runs were late or held up in traffic, those windows for a break were lost, Mr Derbie said.

"Sometimes the break is reduced in circumstances that are beyond the driver's control and it means we don't arrive on time but the following trip must be started on time."

However, Mr Derbie said drivers were reluctant to leave the bus.

"The cash tin is not secured [in the bus] and drivers are reluctant to take the cash tin with them when they go to find something to eat."

Lawyer for Tranzurban Daniel Vincent said the company had provided every opportunity for drivers to take breaks.

"They've provided thermos a backpack and a padlock. They've provided what's required for drivers to best take advantage of the time they have."

The allegations made against Tranzurban were serious, but not supported by evidence, he said.

"It falls well short of a breach of the Land Transport Act."

The union representing Warren Derbie, Tramways, sought a penalty of $20,000 to be handed down to Tranzurban citing a breach of contractual obligations.

The Authority's Michael Loftus reserved his decision but suggested both parties "consider the amount of resources which they were putting into employment disputes."

"I suspect a lot of this could be ironed out through a collective bargaining process," he said.

Tramways and Tranzit met last Thursday to discuss an arrangement and negotiations were ongoing.

Earlier this month Hutt Valley drivers protested long 14-hour days.

During the ERA hearing Tranzurban said this was no longer the case and the longest period a driver was signed in for was 11 hours and 53 minutes.

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