Infratil-run NZ Bus has called off its planned capital strike for tomorrow. The company had been going to prevent bus drivers and other staff who wanted to work from working. It has withdrawn that lock-out notice and presented a better offer to the workers. The workers have also withdrawn their notice of intention to work to rule, and will vote on whether to accept the company’s offer on Friday.
It’s not clear what concessions the company has made but it must be reasonable if the union negotiating team has decided to take it back to the wider membership for a vote.
Details of what work to rule would have consisted of have emerged. Workers would have not pushed a start button on electronic machines at the beginning of trips, would have taken 10 minutes for ‘terminus duties’ between runs, and would have scrapped the final run of the day if they were running too far behind schedule. Hardly the kind of things the company couldn’t easily work around. Yet its response was to threaten to close down the whole system; attempting to break the workers by denying them work and pay and by trying to arouse public anger against the drivers by dishonestly painting the lock-out as a strike.
Perhaps the bright-spark Infratil executives in Wellington who ordered the lock-out realised that shutting down our largest city’s commuter network for an unlimited period was a bit of an overreaction to some workers wanting a 70 cent an hour pay rise.
This is another example of how unionism works. If not for the workers’ will to stand together and collectively demand better from the bosses, they would have just had to bow down and take whatever they were offered. By standing together they’ve made their voice heard.