Auckland bus drivers have been in negotiations with NZ Bus (which is owned by Infratil) for a 70 cent an hour pay rise. Currently, they’re on between $14.05 and $16.75 an hour for 13-hour shifts. Many workers are on split shifts, which means up to four hours a day of unpaid time between shifts.
Negotiations have reached an impasse. The bosses have offered a 3.5% raise with the condition that the workers must agree to only 3% next year and 3.4% the year after. The workers want 4.2% and no pre-decided out-year agreement. The extra cost to the company of going to 4.2% would be pretty small. There’s about 800 workers involved, if they’re all full time (many won’t be) the cost of going to 4.2% would be about $160,000 by my reckoning. Peanuts to Infratil, a company that last year made $77 million, an after-tax return to shareholders of 18%, and could afford to pay its CEO $1,010,000 but it would make an important difference to these workers and their families.
The workers announced they would ‘work to rule’. All that means is they would not work beyond the terms of their contract and would follow workplace rules, like health and safety rules, to the letter, rather than working free overtime and cutting corners for the company. Incredibly, NZ Bus has declared it can’t function without workers who bend the rules and work free overtime, so it has responded with a notice that it will lock-out the workers.
Let’s get this clear. The workers want to work. They are merely saying they will work to rule. In answer, NZ Bus is threatening to lock them out and bring the bus system to a standstill, resulting in commuter chaos for Auckland. All to avoid going a little further on their pay offer.
Coming off the back of NZ Bus’ lockout of Wellington bus drivers last year a strong pattern is starting a emerge. This is a company sucking on the public teat to the tune of millions a year, yet unwilling to share with its workforce or even negotiate in good faith. Ultimately it’s the public who pay the price.
I reckon it’s time we recognised NZ Bus for the corporate bludgers they are brought our public transport back under public control, where it belongs.