Go the drivers

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 am, September 24th, 2008 - 114 comments
Categories: wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Wellington bus drivers are striking this morning and good on them. I was happy to find my own way to work today. The company, GO Wellington, is claiming the drivers claim of 12% is too much in “these economic times”

But talk of percentages is nothing but a red herring when the basic truth is these drivers are paid less than $13 an hour for a skilled and stressful job. After tax that means about 20 hours of work a week just to rent an average room in Wellington and two hours just to buy a kilo block of cheese. An adult movie ticket? Another two hours. A tank of petrol for an average car? Another ten hours.

As we’ve said again and again we have a problem with low wages in New Zealand and tax cuts are not going to help that. What is going to help that is raising wages and it’s good to see Wellington bus drivers doing what they can to make that happen because under the current market-driven labour-laws nobody else will.

114 comments on “Go the drivers”

  1. vto 1

    Agreed. Pay more to the people and everyone benefits.

    Nought to do with tax cuts though. Have both!

    A tangent along the same lines – I was flabbergasted a few years ago when we lived in Wellingtoon and the Council put up the charges to park in the street to, I forget now, something like $6-8 per hour. Astounding. So it costs someone on a very low wage pretty much as much to park in the street as they can earn. Says a lot about where values are placed re asphalt and workers. I thought it was disgusting. grump grump.

  2. Anita 2

    The ever-reliable Poneke has a story that GO Wellington are planning to lock out tomorrow, which GO Wellington just confirmed over the phone.

    Locking out is a massive overreaction, and an appalling thing to do to workers whose families are living on near minimum wage.

    I’ll be taking the time to contact GO Wellington today to tell them what I think of their tactics, anyone want to join me? 🙂

  3. Crank 3

    I can never understand why if people want more money they don’t go get another job that pays better. If no one is willing to do the job at that wage then the wage would have to go up to fill the position.

    Ultimately it is the public that pays for wage increases through higher fares. So you have to ask yourself do you want to be worse off for the sake of some bus driver who is unwilling/unable to get a higher paid job.

  4. Mike Collins 4

    Some may say swings and round-abouts Anita. I don’t know too much about the circumstances so won’t comment too much either way – I just saw a very pissed off friend this morning who couldn’t catch her bus.

    Many people would have said it was a massive over-reaction to go on strike. Without knowing the details we just can’t know. However to condone one course of industrial action and disparage another seems a bit hasty to me.

    I’m sure we’ll see more information from both sides today and in the coming days.

  5. randal 5

    mike collins… I hope your pissed of friend is capapble of understanding why there were no busses and transforms her feelings into class support for the exploited workers. Undifferentiated unconscious anger is responsible for many of societys problems due to the fact that it masks the false consciousness of social events.

  6. Anita 6

    Mike Collins,

    Going from a one hour strike (or series of one hour strikes) to a full lock out in 24 hours is an overreaction.

    If you’re looking for the details I totally recommend Poneke who has a lot of the background information, plus anyone who covered the debacle from 2007 when GO Wellington changed the rosters significantly cutting most drivers’ pay.

  7. Crank 7

    Those subliminal vocabulary building tapes are working wonders Randel.

  8. Matthew Pilott 8

    Crank, there are reasons too numerous to list as to why someone might not be able to go for a different job, so I won’t bother listing them. In part because I know you know why people don’t just magic themselves into another job, and that you’re feigning ignorance to irritate people.

    What I will point out is that if the employment market is treated as a market and nothing else, the only thing that dictates wages will be the country’s population to job ratio. How is that a fair reflection of the work someone does?

    And crank, if you’re going to wank on about the market, might I point out that it’s failing at the moment; do you really want lower fares you can’t use because the demand side of the equation has vanished overnight?

  9. Bill 9

    Thing with striking is that you lose pay and, in the case of bus drivers, you can get to the point where customers put their own sense of inconvenience before any feelings of solidarity.

    If the drivers turned up to work, got paid, and found a way to not take bus fares (‘forgot’ the petty cash or whatever rather than an outright breach of their terms of employment), not only will the passengers stay on side but the tactic would cost the employer a lot more in revenue than a strike.

    It’s a tactic that has been successfully used in the past.

  10. Billy 10

    might I point out that [the market is] failing at the moment

    Is it? I thought it was working perfectly by punishing people who made dumb decisions. Only then the American government went all socialist.

  11. infused 11

    Get better skills then, jesus. It’s not a skilled job.

  12. NeillR 12

    two hours just to buy a kilo block of cheese
    So we all have to pay because Labour has failed to keep inflation under control? They can’t even stay within their own pathetic targets. That’s the real tragedy – that the supposed “party of the workers” spends all it’s time taking money off them.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    Billy, the Wellington Go Bus market for the employment of bus drivers is failing at the moment.

    America? That’s what happens when people’s dumb decisions would be an unmitigated disaster, far beyond the scope of their original decisions. The people who would suffer would not have been the ones making the decisions. Another market failure – privatise the profits and make public the losses.

  14. Felix 14

    “feigning ignorance to irritate people”

    I call it “playing retard’s advocate”. Crank isn’t even very good at it.

  15. Matthew Pilott 15

    Get better skills then, jesus. It’s not a skilled job.

    Being a carpenter or a Prophet? I’d like to see you try either.

    They can’t even stay within their own pathetic targets.

    Actually, they have (and <3% is not a pathetic target by any measure). Overall inflation; remember the Reserve Bank’s goal isn’t to restrict the Cheese Inflation Index. Nor is it the Reserve Cheese Bank of New Zealand. Now that you mention it, what’s National’s Cheese Action Plan? I assume there’s an A5 document out there with 5 bullet points that has sated your demands for Cheese Inflation Action.

  16. Lew 16

    Solution: Ad-hoc carpooling. If one in four people drives to work, picks up some random people waiting at bus stops on their way and asks them to chip in for fuel and parking, everyone wins.

    Except GO Wellington, who are relying on people being pissed off with the drivers, not with their employer.

    L

  17. Billy 17

    MP,

    Oh. Don’t I look silly.

  18. Crank 18

    “I call it “playing retard’s advocate’. Crank isn’t even very good at it.”

    Ha ha nice work Felix. So not very good at being a retard could be construed that you think my arguments are reasonable.

    Anyway Felix didn’t I see you whinging about your student loan the other day? Maybe you should hit the books a bit harder and stop wasting the grown up’s time or you could end up driving buses.

  19. NeillR 19

    Matthew, you can attempt to spin it any way you like, but the reality is that lower paid workers have borne the brunt of Labour’s profligate approach to inflation.
    Every quarter this year the annual CPI has been above 3%. The same occurred in the 2006 year. We were saved during 2007 by a single quarter where prices were held, but that doesn’t escape the overall point that Labour is more than happy to slap workers through fiscal drag. They were better off under National, and will be so again in the future.

  20. Mike Collins 20

    “I hope your pissed of friend is capapble of understanding why there were no busses and transforms her feelings into class support for the exploited workers.”

    Why should she or anyone else transform their feelings? This is an inconvenience to her. Why should she side with those causing the inconvenience?

    I can inform you that, certainly by a long way, not everyone supports the unionist mindset that workers are oppressed and we need to stand together in solidarity. In fact that is a very outdated concept.

    In today’s world people are more likely to see that they have been inconvenienced and blame those responsible rather than back them. I expect a similar response to the lockout tonmorrow.

  21. Lew 21

    Mike Collins: “Why should she side with those causing the inconvenience?”

    The question is who is causing the inconvenience – the drivers, who are asking for better pay and conditions, or their employer, who are refusing to grant them, and now locking them out?

    Now that GO Wellington has a lockout in place, are they not objectively the group causing the inconvenience? I can see your point in relation to the initial strike – I disagree, but I can see your point. But the lockout is a different matter entirely.

    L

  22. Scribe 22

    The question is who is causing the inconvenience – the drivers, who are asking for better pay and conditions, or their employer, who are refusing to grant them, and now locking them out?

    I heard a report on NatRad this morning; not sure how accurate it was. Hasn’t GO Wellington offered a 7% pay increase and a small in-hand payment?

    I, and no doubt plenty of other people, would love to have an offer like that. I’m grateful to my employer for the 3.2% cost-of-living increase I got this year because I know they’re not obliged to do that.

  23. Matthew Pilott 23

    NeillR, what do you consider “Labour’s ‘profligate’ approach to inflation”, and what has National said they are going to do to improve things? Unless they are going to give the RBNZ better tools with which to counter inflation, I can’t see what you’re on about – and they’ve said no such thing.

    Labour have, on the other hand, given workers tools to improve their wages – the ERA as a counterpoint to the ECA, for a clear example. Inflation is external and can’t be contained (apart from at the expense of high interest rates), but Labour has allowed workers to counteract it – that’s why wages are rising at a faster rate than they have, and why workers are getting a greater share of GDP. National would reverse these gains. You’re dreaming if you think otherwise.

  24. Felix 24

    Not me, Crank. I don’t complain about such things.

    Anyway I just said you weren’t very good at playing retard’s advocate – not that you aren’t a retard.

    I didn’t really expect you to get it though.

  25. Mike Collins 25

    Lew – Agreed. That is why in my final paragraph I stated that I expect a similar response to the lockout tomorrow.

    I should have perhaps made it clearer that what I meant by this was that people would perceive the company as causing the inconvenience.

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    Scribe, I heard that shift changes had cost many workers up to 19% of their pay last year. I’m not sure what income level you’re on right now, buth there’s every possibility your 3.2% increase would be far more than the drivers’ 7% @ $13/hr (91 cents/hr increase).

    cap ‘standard moos’. You cows.

  27. Lew 27

    Scribe: 7% of fuck-all is still fuck-all – I think that’s the point they’re trying to make. Unless you’d dispute that they’re paid fuck-all. And, well, the point of a strike is to make the public appreciate how things are normally, when they are at work.

    I’m not the biggest fan of Wellington’s bus system – it’s somewhat archaic, expensive and unreliable. But I’m not labouring under any delusions that this is the fault of the drivers.

    L

  28. Crank 28

    I pay my tax (far too much in my veiw) and some of that goes to pay for welfare payments to support the sick the unfortunate and sometimes the lazy and I have no problem with that.

    What I do have a problem with is having to then support through hiked cost of goods and services some clown who doesn’t think his job pays enough. Like I said earlier if you don’t like your pay then get a new job. If you can’t get a new job then you should have listened when people told you to try harder at school (or re-train).

  29. Scribe 29

    MP,

    I assume the cuts to workload last year were made rather than laying off workers. Isn’t that a better solution than redundancies?

    buth there’s every possibility your 3.2% increase would be far more than the drivers’ 7% @ $13/hr (91 cents/hr increase).

    Quick mental calculation and I don’t think my increase would equate to much more than that, maybe I got a $1/hr increase.

    But you know what, some rich people got a much bigger increase in real terms. I’m not going to go on strike, though. What measure, other than percentage, can one use to determine fairness in pay increases?

    Lew,

    They accepted a job at a certain pay rate. I can’t say if what they’re being paid is fair or not, based on industry standards. What happens if the Wellington drivers get an 8% increase? The Auckland and Christchurch drivers demand the same and strike when the company offers only 5%.

  30. Janet 30

    Please don’t use the offensive term ‘retard’. There has been a great deal of explanation of why it is extremely offensive to those with intellectual impairment and their families in the US media lately. And there were large protests against the movie Tropic Thunder. I know this is a site for robust discussion, but please don’t offend some of our most vulnerable citizens in the process.

  31. Yo righties! This is the market in action you dicks. The employer has failed to meet the price point between the demand for labour and the supply of labour. When they meet that point the market will retain equilibrium and everyone will be happy. Yay the market!

  32. Crank 32

    The market in action numbnuts, would be taking your labour to where you get best return for it not holding a gun to your bosses head because you want more money to increase the ammount you stuff down a pokie machine.

  33. Mike Collins 33

    ‘Sod

    Right you are. Implicit in any market outcome however are many different factors which drive demand and supply. One of these factors is community opinion. Of course if bus drivers find that the community aren’t behind their wage demands (especially if fare increases are required) then they may reconsider those demands downwards. Likewise on the flipside of the coin.

    “The employer has failed to meet the price point between the demand for labour and the supply of labour.”

    That is presumably why the strike occured. Perhaps we can invert that statement for the lockout eh bro?

  34. Matthew Pilott 34

    Heh, so Robinsod is the Free Marketeer, and Crank is the nanny-state interventionist, who wants the thieving socialist government to intervene in the market and prevent natural forces of economics from operating freely.

    Crank, you might want them to get a new job because it suits you. Guess what? It doesn’t suit the workers who have those jobs – and why should they give a rat’s arse about you? You obviously don’t care about them. So quit your PC nanny state whining.

    Scribe, I’m not sure if it was a choice between less hours and redundancies. Might have wanted to line the bosses’ pockets for all I know! I guess people must come to their own decision about whether a pay offer is fair, according to their criteria. You were satisfied with your pay rise for whatever reason, the drivers are not.

    You ask what measure? I’m afraid it’s all of them! Conditions, allowances, starting pay, further contracted increases – everything that makes up a contract must be considered when deciding whether an increase is fair. The percentage is only the beginning.

  35. Crank 35

    “Crank, you might want them to get a new job because it suits you”

    MP,

    Frankly I couldn’y care less what they do. There is a minimum wage which supposedly is there to stop exploitation of workers so as long as that minimum requirement level is met then its gloves off.

    If you get paid too little for the job you do you either stay in that job because you choose to for personal reasons or you are an idiot.

  36. Scribe 36

    MP,

    Scribe, I’m not sure if it was a choice between less hours and redundancies.

    Sounds like a National billboard 😉 Fewer, MP, fewer.

    I guess people must come to their own decision about whether a pay offer is fair, according to their criteria. You were satisfied with your pay rise for whatever reason, the drivers are not.

    Yep, and the public can come to their own decision over whether pay demands of 8% are fair, according to their criteria.

    I was satisfied with my pay rise because I know my employer has no obligation to give me any increase at all. I don’t have a sense of entitlement.

  37. Felix 37

    ‘sod isn’t necessarily advocating for free market ideology, he just happens to understand how markets function and is explaining it to our lesser-abled friends.

    Crank, on the other hand, does appear to actually be railing against the principles of market driven economics.

    Janet, sorry for causing offense, from now on I’ll try to refer to Crank as a moron.

  38. Matthew Pilott 38

    If you get paid to little for the job you do you either stay in that job because you choose to for personal reasons or you are an idiot.

    Or you try and improve working conditions, with the realisation that someone will have to do the job and if the conditions are bad for you, they’ll be bad for the next sucker if you walk out. In that way, workplace conditions throughout society are improved, and benefits flow on up to us all. Lucky not everyone is such a quitter, and some have the balls to stand for waht they believe in.

    If you couldn’t care less about what they do, then you wouldn’t be here complaining that them getting decent pay might cost you a little bit more. So it is indeed ‘gloves off’ as you put it. What are you complaining about? Their choice to go in to bat for better conditions – do you want to make another contradictory statement about regulating against it, or is it still ‘gloves off’?

  39. Billy 39

    Felix,

    Speaking as a moron myself, I am extremely offended by your perjorative use of that term. Please use another term.

  40. Matthew Pilott 40

    Scribe, is half an hour less or fewer than an hour?!

    You don’t feel entitled to adequate recompense for selling your labour? Kia Kaha! Or were you satisfied with the recompense you were entitled to?

  41. Mike Collins 41

    Lol @ Billy

  42. Crank 42

    Felix,

    Did you work that out yourself or are you just copying Matthew Pilotts talking points again in an attempt to pretend you know what you are talking about.

    And I find Moron offensive as my Grandfather was killed by the people of the Ciego de Ávila Province.

  43. Felix 43

    Sorry Billy I have to draw the line at moron. It’s not fair to stop me using all the good words.

    Go away Crank you moron.

  44. Crank 44

    MP,

    You make a fair point in terms of the choice to try and improve your working conditions. I think however that current employment law screws the scrum too far in favour of employee’s and provides a mechanism to increase the price of labour in certain areas well beyond its value.

  45. Tane 45

    I never cease to be amazed at the kind of sophistry some on the political right will engage in to deny workers on $12.72 an hour a decent pay increase.

  46. Tane 46

    I think however that current employment law screws the scrum to far in favour of employee’s and provides a mechanism to increase the price of labour in certain areas well beyond its value.

    Don’t believe the talking points. New Zealand has one of the most deregulated labour markets in the developed world – certainly more deregulated than Australia’s.

    We also have some of the lowest wages. Coincidence?

  47. Lew 47

    Crank: If you actually believe market theory, it’s almost impossible to increase something well beyond its value for any length of time. The value of a thing is what people will pay for it.

    Strikes are the time we get to reflect on exactly how much labour is worth. There will be a lot of people driving to work in Wellington over the next few days, and they’ll have quite a lot of time stuck in gridlock to reflect on the relative value of parking buildings, fuel, waiting time, fender-benders, and the service buses provide. If they decide the drivers’ claim is reasonable, it will be GO Wellington (perhaps better called STOP Wellington) who’ll bear the blame.

    L

  48. Scribe 48

    I never cease to be amazed at the kind of sophistry some on the political right will engage in to deny workers on $12.72 an hour a decent pay increase.

    Tane,

    Would you be as sympathetic to a group of people being paid $200,000 demanding an 8% pay rise? If not, why not?

  49. Crank 49

    I would be interested, if you have the time Tane, in you explaining to me how you get wages up without increasing the bottom line of the business or advocating a smaller return for the owners.

    I ask this in a genuine spirit.

  50. Matthew Pilott 50

    Crank, I’m glad that you agree there is merit to improving workplace situations, if everyone moved on from bad jobs they’d stay that way purely because there are fewer jobs than people, so the market would never be forced to correct the situation. That’s one way that the market is skewed towards employers. One other is the difficulty in changing jobs – it’s not always possible. Finally, people often see a job as more than a source of income, the tendency of those arguing from the right is the reverse – a job is money and nothing more.

    It’s an essential part of any market. Your product sucks, so you try to make it more appealing.

  51. Tane 51

    Would you be as sympathetic to a group of people being paid $200,000 demanding an 8% pay rise? If not, why not?

    Scribe. The bus drivers are on $26,500 a year based on a 40 hour working week. An 8% pay rise will put them on $28,620.

    Given the recent price rises in family basics like food and petrol they’ll need every cent of it. I doubt an executive on $200k is in quite the same need of an 8% pay rise.

    Of course, you’re free to argue why you think the drivers should be paid less than $28,620 a year, but making spurious comparisons to executive salaries isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    As Irish and Lew both point out, 8% of fuck-all is still 8% of fuck-all. Your hostility towards the pretty meagre claims of some of our country’s lowest paid workers is frankly distasteful.

  52. Tane 52

    I would be interested, if you have the time Tane, in you explaining to me how you get wages up without increasing the bottom line of the business or advocating a smaller return for the owners.

    I’m not advocating that. The bus company just increased their prices significantly, and they make a healthy profit. It’s time they shared some of that with their workers.

  53. monkey-boy 53

    $13.00 an hour. what a joke. I hope they are successful in their industrial action. I also hope that their union is equal to the task as the employers seem happy to play ‘hardball’. These are ordinary people trying to make a crust in increasingly hard times. Industrial action is perfectly legitimate and frankly, I am suprized that this is such an isolated situation.

  54. monkey-boy 54

    In fact the recent series of rallies by the EPMU would have been an excellent forum to really hammer home how pathetic the minimum wage is.

  55. Crank 55

    It is important to remember that the guys on that kind of wage with kids will be getting welfare top ups to their wages in the form of working for families.

  56. James 56

    You guys are a riot. Everyone and their bleeding hearts for the poor bus drivers making $13 an hour.

    News flash, nearly every hospitality job in this country starts below $13 an hour. So that’s the people cleaning rooms, the people on the front desk, the people taking reservations, the people in the restaurants, the people at starbucks, etc etc etc. The difference seems to be that those people move on, whereas bus driving seems to be a destination rather than a stepping stone onwards and upwards.

    I’m not arguing that 8% is an unreasonable amount (at $13 an hour), but I have a feel that this is being viewed as “the tip of the iceberg”. We could end up like Washington Metro where bus drivers frequently make over $100,000- that’ll be good!

    Realistically speaking, how much should a bus driver be making? Teachers start out at $20, and I hate to say it but I think I’d like to throw more resources at the people responsible for educating future generations than those driving the big yellow bus to and from the school. Cars are now parking themselves, it’s only a matter of time before bus drivers are completely unnecessary- the sooner they realise that and start looking at alternatives rather than inconveniencing those of us that depend on public transportation, the better.

  57. Scribe 57

    The bus drivers are on $26,500 a year based on a 40 hour working week. An 8% pay rise will put them on $28,620.

    A 7% pay rise, which they have been offered, would put them on $28,355 — a difference of $265. The company offered a $200 one-off gross payment, which accounts for almost all of that disparity.

    I find it hard to believe the ill will a strike causes is worth a few dollars.

    Your hostility towards the pretty meagre claims of some of our country’s lowest paid workers is frankly distasteful.

    Point out where I’ve been hostile towards their meagre claims.

  58. Lew 58

    James: Yeah, I know – I ran bars and kitchens around Wellington for years. My brother and my sister still do.

    “Realistically speaking, how much should a bus driver be making?”

    They should be making as much as their employers will pay them. That’s why they’re applying what leverage they can.

    L

  59. Matthew Pilott 59

    James, the same people here would be supporting a strike in hospitality if the circumstances were justified. That’s a pretty ignorant observation. I believe several other strikes have been supported here, the last I recall was Spotless, several months back.

    Fortunately, most employers aren’t obstinate enough to instigate a lock-out, which makes this one well worth the mention.

    According to the GO site the average length of employment for a bus driver is 8 years. I’d imagine hospo would have a shorter average due to the numbers of people moving to different industries, but that doesn’t support your claim as it is.

  60. Sammie 60

    Tane

    “Given the recent price rises in family basics like food and petrol they?ll need every cent of it. I doubt an executive on $200k is in quite the same need of an 8% pay rise.”

    I’m on appx 200k per year and we are struggling to make ends meet at the moment. What with mortgage payments (thankfully just beginning to fall), a fuel hungry Ford Territory, private pre-school fees, superannuation payments, donations, and three young children, financing this each month can be a bit of a stretch for us. In spite of my employer making a profit last year, because of the tough economic conditions I did not get a pay rise. While an 8% pay rise would have been good, a better outcome would have been decent size tax cuts over the past 3 years.

    I could go and find a higher paying job however I really enjoy my work and workplace. Alternatively I could ditch the SUV, private education, etc. At the end of day though, just like the bus drivers, its all about personal choices around income and expenditure.

  61. I’m sorry, but I just cannot believe that 200k would see the average joe struggling. But that’s just my perspective on things.

    Yes you could ditch the SUV and private eductation. Drive a car like the rest of us (heck, you could even take the bus!), and send your kids to a public school. I know firsthand there are many excellent public schools out there.

    captcha: pavement Soviet

  62. Stephen 62

    “I’m on appx 200k per year and we are struggling to make ends meet at the moment.”

    Joke post? Buy brie instead of gouda, I dunno.

  63. Joanna 63

    Sammie,
    I think you raise a good point in that people from all walks of life a struggling a bit with rising costs etc. however as you point out – you have choices (ditch the car, maybe rethink private education). Someone on a $30000 salary doesn’t have those choices (and never did). so, for example, when the price of food goes up, the only choice maybe to buy less food.

  64. James 64

    Matthew:

    “According to the GO site the average length of employment for a bus driver is 8 years. I’d imagine hospo would have a shorter average due to the numbers of people moving to different industries, but that doesn’t support your claim as it is”

    If you’re going to use the GO site for supporting facts, why don’t you add the following (http://www.gowellingtonbus.co.nz/node/45):

    “Average income:
    • The current average income for a GO Wellington Driver working an average 43 hour week is $40,564.00pa.
    • After applying the 7 per cent offer to the current average wage, the income per annum would be $43,403.
    • This equates to an hourly rate of $19.41 which includes penal rates and allowances.”

    And

    “Starting hourly rates:
    • Drivers with less than 1 year’s service receive $12.72 per hour as an initial training rate. i.e. 6 per cent over the current minimum wage for adults. The company invests $10,000 in training new recruits.”

    Discussion over.

  65. Tane 65

    Scribe:

    The company offered a $200 one-off gross payment, which accounts for almost all of that disparity.

    A one-off payment doesn’t carry through to next year and the year after. A percentage pay increase does. So, no, the one-off payment accounts for very little.

    I find it hard to believe the ill will a strike causes is worth a few dollars.

    When you’re on $12.72 an hour those few dollars are worth a lot more.

    GO Wellington also seems happy enough to go through the even greater ill-will of a brutal lockout over a few dollars. I assume you’ll be condemning them?

    Sammie:

    I’m on appx 200k per year and we are struggling to make ends meet at the moment.

    I suggest you learn to live within your means. At $200,000 you’re in the top few percent of income earners and you’re earning ten times the income of the bus drivers. Your whingeing is pathetic.

  66. James – median income in wellington is around $62,000 a year and cost of living in Wellington (the most expensive city to live in in New Zealand) reflects that.

    But if by “discussion over” you mean you’re gonna STFU then I’m very happy to retract my point…

  67. Crank 67

    So it turns out that the claims of 27k a year that had everyone reaching for the picket signs in solidarity is bollocks.

    40k odd a year average wage puts a different complexion on things.

  68. Tane 68

    Crank, I’m sure you know better than to believe company propaganda. They’ve assumed maximum penal rates and overtime and massaged the figures to suit their PR – it’s a common tactic. The fact is the base rate is $12.72 an hour.

  69. insider 69

    So these skilled workers who require passenger HT licences get just above minimum wage and so earn less than a service station worker working for an evil multinational.

    Go the union! I wish I could have those guys in my corner arguing. Imagine the riches I’d get. Brilliant result for organised labour.

    [if it weren’t for the union, they would be on less. In fact the minimum wage would be lower too because the unions have been powerful advocates for the substantial increases we have seen under Labour. SP]

  70. James 70

    Robinsod:

    “James – median income in wellington is around $62,000 a year and cost of living in Wellington (the most expensive city to live in in New Zealand) reflects that.”

    Really? According to Statistics NZ, for 2006 the median income in the Wellington Region is $28,800, compared to the NZ median of $24,400.
    (http://www.stats.govt.nz/census/census-outputs/quickstats/snapshotplace2.htm?id=1000009&tab=Income&type=region&ParentID=)

    So unless the median income in Wellington more than doubled in the last two years, I’d love to know where you got your “facts”?

  71. Scribe 71

    Tane,

    If the report on NatRad was accurate this morning, the 7% increase this year, coupled with the one-off $200 payment, would be followed by a 4+% increase next year.

    Regarding ill-will, a strike generates ill-will from the general public. A lockout is only an internal struggle.

    When you’re on $12.72 an hour those few dollars are worth a lot more.

    I know. That’s why I’d be taking the 7% increase and the $200 payout and driving my bus. That would give me something like $45 extra per week.

    [Tane: The 4% increase next year will have to account for further increases in the cost of living. CPI doesn’t stop just because it’s a two-year deal. I also doubt the public will turn on low-wage bus drivers here, no matter how much PR resource GO Wellington throws into it.]

  72. insider 72

    Steve

    If deunionised staff who are relatively unskilled can get more just down to market forces, than skilled unionised staff with experienced bargainers behind them, how can you claim they would get less if it wasn’t for the union?

  73. Anita 73

    James,

    There’s a massive distinction between the Wellington Region (which includes Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, all of the Wairarapa and the Kapiti Coast) and Wellington City. I am assuming Robinsod is using the _city_ figures which would be much higher than the regional figures.

    Obviously it’s impractical for a bus driver working either morning commute or evening shifts to live outside Wellington City.

  74. Crank 74

    “Obviously it’s impractical for a bus driver working either morning commute or evening shifts to live outside Wellington City.”

    Why is it any more impractical than, for example, someone working in a bank or a bakery?

  75. James 75

    Anita:

    “There’s a massive distinction between the Wellington Region (which includes Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, all of the Wairarapa and the Kapiti Coast) and Wellington City. I am assuming Robinsod is using the _city_ figures which would be much higher than the regional figures.”

    Where can I find these _city_ figures then? I find it hard to believe that Wellington with all it’s hospitality and service workers, manages to provide a median income that’s north of $50k let alone $60k.

    “Obviously it’s impractical for a bus driver working either morning commute or evening shifts to live outside Wellington City.”

    Why is that exactly? Most people I know _do_ live outside Wellington City, that includes people that have to be on the job in the wee hours of the morning.

  76. insider 76

    Total bus strike/lockout tomorrow. No buses at all. Poneke will be having palpitations without his daily fix.

  77. Anita 77

    James,

    Try here, although it doesn’t give the same number as Robinsod 🙂

    To get a number like Robinsod’s I suspect you’ll need to restrict it to the median income of those in full-time employment (the stats at the link above are all people aged 15 and over, which means you get school kids, stay at home parents and the retired all mixed in together.

    If you’re grovelling around in the census data you’ll want the breakdown on territorial local authority not the breakdown on regional council.

  78. Anita 78

    insider,

    Lockout, not strike. This is the employer heavying the workers (as opposed to this morning which was the workers trying to heavy the employer).

  79. Scribe 79

    This is the employer heavying the workers (as opposed to this morning which was the workers trying to heavy the employer).

    Is one better — more acceptable, I mean — than the other, Anita?

  80. Oh sorry wee-jimmy – I meant the median wage or salary. My point still stands….

  81. Anita 81

    Scribe,

    Neither is intrinsically more or less acceptable than the other. It is, as ever, an assessment of the power dynamic and consequence.

    The drivers were withdrawing labour for one hour a day, causing headaches and PR hassles for GO Wellington, and (possibly) a very slight decrease in the total profit made by the company and its owner.

    The lockout has withdrawn all employment and pay from people earning very low wages. With employees earning that close to the minimum wage the lockout will causing genuine and immediate hardship, it will translate into what food there is in the house, whether the power stays on, whether the kids have breakfast before school and what’s in the lunch boxes.

    The strike was causing GO Wellington a level of hassle and extra work. They have retaliated by attacking their employees ability to feed their families – that is grossly disproportionate, it is a massive escalation, it is IMO utterly unreasonable.

  82. James 82

    “Oh sorry wee-jimmy – I meant the median wage or salary. My point still stands .”

    What point? Maybe if you comb your hair better I could see it.

    The median wage or salary is what we’re talking about here. I’m struggling to find where it says the median worker in Wellington is making more than $50k? You were going to enlighten us with some facts or reference?

  83. Mike Collins 83

    Anita – I can understand the arguments and can empathise with those in financial distress.

    OTOH – Go Wellington may well feel that they have been held to ransom by their workforce. Striking during peak time is calculated to cause mass disruption. From their point of view this would be an unacceptable response to their offer.

    You state “They have retaliated by attacking their employees ability to feed their families”. This highly emotive language is wrong in my opinion. You appear to be confusing motive and effect. Yes it may be difficult for the families to feed themselves as a result of the lockout. However Go Wellington would not be doing this to target the families as your comment seems to imply – but rather to demonstrate that they will not be held to ransom to unreasonable (in their view) demands.

    For any bargaining situation to escalate into industrial action indicates a degree of frustration has arisen. To suggest that it is ok for one side to demonstrate this frustration but another isn’t, is unfair.

  84. Anita 84

    Mike Collins,

    GO Wellington could have responded by printing tomorrow’s rosters on yellow paper, but they didn’t. They, for blindingly obvious reasons, chose something which would have a negative impact on the drivers. They chose the level of impact; the level of impact is the whole point.

    I don’t see how one can argue that they did not deliberately set out to cause financial hardship for the drivers’ families.

  85. Mike Collins 85

    “I don’t see how one can argue that they did not deliberately set out to cause financial hardship for the drivers’ families.”

    It is about mindset. Some people have the mindset that all employers are nasty. If you have this mindset then you will be more inclined to think the worst in terms of motives. I had given you more credit than that Anita – I actually thought you had misspoken when you said “They have retaliated by attacking their employees ability to feed their families”.

    For you to actually say that Go Wellington has intentionally chosen the course of action they have to cause financial hardship for driver’s families is a little over the top in my opinion.

    To me it looks as though Go Wellington has simply stated that they will not be bullied and that they have made a reasonable offer (in their view). Perhaps it was a failure of union leadership for not recognising the consequences of their actions.

    Printing rosters on yellow paper? Please enlighten me as to the significance and likely effect of this.

  86. Tane 86

    Mike. Industrial disputes are not about high principle or morality, they are about power.

    The bus company sees a low paid workforce demanding more money and it figures it can use the threat of hurting them and their families through a lockout to force them to back down. The stick the company wields is far larger than that held by the tramways union, with its few hundred members and empty bank account.

    Don’t think for a second that GO Wellington are being nice and reasonable about this. They used their financial muscle to print a 1/3 page ad in the paper today attacking the drivers’ union and they have engaged in an aggressive and professional PR strategy.

    It’s now up to the drivers to show they won’t be bullied, and to the wider movement to give them the help they need.

  87. Mike Collins 87

    Tane I never said there wasn’t a power dynamic here. I simply took issue with a commenter stating that Go Wellington are intentionally hurting the families as if this was their motivation.

    You note that “The stick the company wields is far larger than that held by the tramways union”. However some would consider that as all the more evidence as a failure of union leadership for leading the members down the path they have. If you pick a fight with someone bigger than yourself, many people don’t have a lot of sympathy if you wind up with a black eye.

  88. randal 88

    are wellingotn busses still owned by a bunch of coupon clippers in scotland all making good returns on their investments as kiwi drivers have to put up with all this bullshit and more?

  89. Tane 89

    Mike, no one is arguing the company likes hurting workers and their families for fun. They do so as a means to gain leverage in negotiations.

    The union leadership acts on the wishes of its members. There is always a balance of power in favour of the employer, especially so in this case. You can argue that they shouldn’t have taken on the bus company, but then if all unions did that we’d never get anywhere.

    Besides, I’ve got a funny feeling that at the end of all this it might be GO Wellington that ends up with the black eye.

  90. Mike Collins 90

    “Mike, no one is arguing the company likes hurting workers and their families for fun. They do so as a means to gain leverage in negotiations.”

    Ok fair point there. I don’t agree with you but given your (supposed*) background I can see how you adopt that position.

    The flip-side of the coin to this viewpoint is that the workers intentionally caused disruption to hundreds, if not thousands of people this morning and the businesses relying on them to gain leverage in negotiations. They don’t like hurting the customers but need to, to get what they want.

    There are bystanders feeling the effects of this. Families on one side and customers on another. To suggest that one course of action is legitimate but not another is, as I said earlier, unfair. There is potential obviously for one or both sides to be at fault here. Many here are suggesting that it is the employers. Do these people know Nick Kelly?

    “The union leadership acts on the wishes of its members”. Perhaps this is true. But different unions will change the semantic nature of that statement from not at all to completely. Some decisions I am sure are fait accompli with a top down suggestion going to a “vote”. Much like the Labour PM now determines who will be in cabinet and gets the caucus to vote according to their (the PM’s) wishes. No-one dares oppose.

    *Please don’t take that as me trying to expose you. I’m simply stating that I understand you to be involved in the union movement and believe it is relevant here – in terms of colouring your views.

  91. Tane 91

    Mike, any decision to take strike action is decided by a full membership vote. The negotiation team is made up by elected delegates, and Nick Kelly is their elected president. There’s no denying that every driver involved in this dispute was fully aware of the facts and made a conscious decision.

    I’m not denying unions try to inflict financial harm on employers to increase their leverage. My point is that GO Wellington has escalated this dispute well out of proportion by issuing a lockout notice, and that while the odd rolling strike causes a small hit in profits for the company and some inconvenience for commuters, GO Wellington’s actions will cause direct and serious harm to workers and their families.

    Of course, that’s just the way it goes. The only question is which side you choose to take.

    (Oh, and no worries, it’s no secret that I’m involved in the union movement.)

  92. Joanna 92

    Hi Anita,
    I too fail to understand the significance of “yellow paper”.
    could you explain?
    Thanks

  93. Draco T Bastard 93

    Lew:

    The value of a thing is what people will pay for it.

    With the corollary that the person selling it is willing to accept that price.

    There is also one other aspect of the market economy: Nothing can be provided at less than cost price. In this particular discussion we are talking about labour so the cost price would be the cost of living at a reasonable standard. As we live in a capitalist society it would be reasonable to expect that the people selling their labour would want a profit as well – 15% profit seem reasonable?

  94. DeeDub 94

    Crank

    “So you have to ask yourself do you want to be worse off for the sake of some bus driver who is unwilling/unable to get a higher paid job.”

    So YOU should ask yourself if you would rather have a happy, professional bus driver, or an angry, hungry, disaffected one? Even the most rabidly selfish, free-market worshipping Righty should be able to understand that concept?

  95. Phil 95

    GO Wellington has escalated this dispute well out of proportion … while the odd rolling strike causes a small hit in profits for the company and some inconvenience for commuters, GO Wellington’s actions will cause direct and serious harm to workers and their families

    So, when it comes down to it, what value do you actually place on commuter inconvenience?

    I ask that seriously, as the determination of whether or not GO Wellington has ‘escalated’ this, really depends on whether or not the minor impact of rolling strikes on a large number of commuters is greater than the much larger direct financial impact on a much smaller number of union employees.

    Having been trapped in the ensuing gridlock on the urban motorway this morning, I think the two numbers may be much closer than you’d initially expect.

  96. Anita 96

    Re printing rosters on yellow paper no particular significance, it was a deliberately nonsense example. The point is that GO Wellington had many options from trivial to hard out, when they made their decision about what action to take they weighed up the impact on the drivers.

    If you don’t believe they deliberately chose to take an action which would have significant financial consequences for drivers and their families, why do you think they chose a lock out?

  97. randal 97

    so they could embarass the government before the election?

  98. Anita 98

    Anyone got a link between GO Wellington and the Road Transport Users Forum?

  99. Pascal's bookie 99

    Umm Phil, the lockout will have the same effects on commuters, probably for longer, that the rolling strike had.

  100. jcuknz 100

    If I was in Wellington and not being taken to work I would be highly pissed off … but not at the drivers but the intransigence of management from what I’ve heard them say on National Radio. It is a sign of very bad management when workers go on strike.

    But I’m not in Wellington and I’m living on $7.50 an hour, assuming it is based on a 40hr week. But then I’m retired, have my home fully paid for, plus investments which I worked for …. but how the hell does somebody on $13/hour even think to achieve such results for them and their family with today’s prices.

    One important question I think is why Wellington Regional Council is not subsidising public transport so that the bosses can make a reasonable profit without employing at starvation wages.

  101. Mike Collins 101

    “Umm Phil, the lockout will have the same effects on commuters, probably for longer, that the rolling strike had.”

    I had that same thought too. However it had been made clear that rolling strikes were going to happen. Go Wellington has in my opinion decided that it needed to stand up to the union tactics and demonstrate that it would not hesitate to use action of its own to back up its demands (the final offer). Put simply they have chosen to frontfoot the issue, perhaps on the belief that they stood to lose more by being passive and waiting for the union to come back to the table. That makes logical sense to me and that is a course of action I would take if I were an employer that felt I was being bullied by a union. I would fight back.

    For arguments sake let’s say there is no more money in the kitty for pay increases beyond the offer already presented. From the company’s perspective what would be worse? The wrath of commuters as they faced indefinite rolling strikes, or the (relatively short-term) wrath of commuters faced with a couple of days of no buses before the union is forced back to the table? It’s a gamble obviously but the negotiating table is preferable to an ongoing saga. The company needs to do what it can to get it back there and stop it disrupting services.

  102. Lew 102

    Draco TB: Yes, you’ve completed my thought, thank you.

    Phil: Yes, the point of a strike or other denial of service is to force people to confront the value of something they take for granted. Ultimately both the Tramways Union and GO Wellington have the same tactical purpose: to dispose the commuting public (upon whom both rely for their livelihoods) favourably to their cause, be seen as the good guy, and thereby gain an advantage in their negotiation.

    On the face of the matter, the original strike and the ensuing lockout are similar. Similar, but they differ in their details.

    The strike was limited in scope to one (admittedly vital) hour per day, from two out of three major depots. The lockout, on the other hand, is unlimited in scope – a full-scale denial of service with no end-point, from all three terminals. It provides no certainty for drivers or commuters and its effect will for some people mean the difference between being an hour late to work and not making it to work at all.

    The relatively moderate action taken by a group who practically everyone other than GO Wellington perceives to be among the poorest-paid workers, but who paradoxically are so critical to the functioning of the city, contrasts strongly with the draconian action taken by their employers, who enjoy no such public sympathy.

    It seems clear to me who will take the advantage here.

    Mike Collins: You make a good case, though.

    L

  103. Pascal's bookie 103

    Mike I was addressing this bit:

    …as the determination of whether or not GO Wellington has ‘escalated’ this, really depends on whether or not the minor impact of rolling strikes on a large number of commuters is greater than the much larger direct financial impact on a much smaller number of union employees.

    Which to me at least seems to assume that the lockout will not be affecting commuters.

    So I suspect we are having separate discussions.

  104. Mike Collins 104

    Indeed we were. I believe I was responding to Phil.

  105. Mike Collins 105

    Nope sorry was responding to you. I was quoting your point because I was thinking (on the bus on the way home – and wished the driver all the best) that both the strike and lockout would be causing inconvenience to the customer. To me it was about what either side could expect to gain from that inconvenience.

  106. Pascal's bookie 106

    Yeah, that’s cool.

  107. Poneke 107

    Total bus strike/lockout tomorrow. No buses at all. Poneke will be having palpitations without his daily fix.

    Not at all. I walked. From Karori. Lovely day for it.

    One thing I will never do is drive my car to work.

  108. Swampy 108

    Scuse me, I work in a skilled and stressful job and I only get paid a little more than these drivers in an industry where lots of people get paid three figure hourly rates. So what? I love my job and you won’t find me whining about how much I don’t get paid.

    You see, we live in a great little country and we have so much stuff that people in other countries don’t have, but for some people it is never enough. I have enough money to cover my living expenses. I live a very simple life without all the expensive baggage that people claim without any justification that everyone is supposed to need and be entitled to. I have a roof over my head and a simple yet rewarding lifestyle that doesn’t cost much.

    The head of the Tramways union is a militant, a guy who knows how to stir up trouble which is probably behind this and I think we should be digging deeper into some of the claims made. I didn’t accept all of the union claims in the Progressive Enterprises campaign, behind some of that is basically union muscle-flexing, power games. IN our workplace nobody bothers with a union because they don’t want that political interference that is what unions basically stand for, as so many of them are involved in political activities and the workers are just pawns in their games.

  109. Swampy 109

    “Don’t believe the talking points. New Zealand has one of the most deregulated labour markets in the developed world – certainly more deregulated than Australia’s.

    We also have some of the lowest wages. Coincidence?”

    There hasn’t been long enough since Labour passed the laws for unions to catch up to where they were before, that doesn’t in any way detract from what the previous poster said.

    For example since laws were passed, by Labour, strengthening the MECA, there have been a range of campaigns essentially on the basis that workers have a right to a MECA – they have a right to campaign, but not any automatic right to get one. Conversely the employer does not have to offer one to them, as that is also their right.

    The MECA is the vehicle by which Labour aims to increase union strength- there is no other logical reason for it. You may argue that it is a good thing to increase the power of unions. I, however, will argue from my experience that a point can be reached of unions having too much power.

    Labour has given too much to the unions simply because of the practical support they give Labour, particularly in election year, and that is the most blatant example of self interest and it needs to be addressed when we get a change of government.

  110. Swampy 110

    “Given the recent price rises in family basics like food and petrol they’ll need every cent of it. I doubt an executive on $200k is in quite the same need of an 8% pay rise.”

    Petrol isn’t much of a reason, it is simply a fact that most households which have a car over-use it. In my father’s generation, running a car was much more expensive, mainly the cost of fuel but also cars were more expensive. The result was that people geared their lives around other forms of transport. We all know that many families could easily reduce their car use without impairing their quality of life.

  111. Robin Grieve 111

    After 9 years of a labour government and wages are too low? I blame the unions for being Labours lap dogs. Workers need to either get out of the unions or at least demand they stop feathering their own nests and sucking up to labour for their own individual gains. Now we’re going to have a National Govt you watch the previously silenced unions will start working again. It seems the only way workers can get looked after is by voting National.

  112. Tane 112

    Robin. Wages are growing faster now than they have for years. Employers are screaming about ‘spiralling labour costs’.

    Have a look at this graph and tell me workers have been better off under National:

    The trans-Tasman wage gap

    The unions have run high-profile pay campaigns – remember Supersizemypay, Fair Share 5% in 05, Shelfrespect and the union’s continued advocacy for increases to the minimum wage?

    Also, if you think the Tramways Union in particular is beholden to Labour you really have no clue.

    I’d suggest you do a bit research on the history of wages and New Zealand unions before wading in with more ill-informed comment.

  113. Tane 113

    Swampy. Enterprise bargaining is essentially a race to the bottom, and you can see the result it has had on our wages. The reason for MECAs is to create a level playing field across each industry so that employers are competing on quality rather than cheap labour.

    You’re right that it hasn’t had much effect so far, but that’s largely because the law isn’t strong enough. Employers can refuse to enter MECAs so they are few and far between. Hopefully a fourth term Labour government can strengthen the MECA laws and help deliver some further wage increases.

  114. Bill 114

    “Hopefully a fourth term Labour government can strengthen the MECA laws and help deliver some further wage increases.”

    Wouldn’t be holding my breath on that one Tane.

    Where the Nats sought to destroy unionism through the ECA, Labour have played a ‘smarter’ game of containment.

    Neo-liberal economic policy DEMANDS low wages. And Labour has delivered. From memory, all the graphs of wage disparity with Australia do not show a narrowing of the gap under Labour, but rather a holding pattern. That’s probably better than what would have happened under National, but the way I see it, workers are being offered a choice of a) have your legs cut off above the knee (Nat): have your legs cut off below the knee (Lab).

    And don’t forget to say “Thankyou!” when a hand up/out is offered you by the axe men/women.

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