Lockout lifted

Written By: - Date published: 5:47 pm, September 25th, 2008 - 27 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags: , ,

News just in: GO Wellington has lifted the lockout of its 300 bus drivers. The drivers say they are pleased the lockout is over and that they can go back to work but their campaign for a living wage will continue.

This is a major backdown from GO Wellington, and confirms my suspicion that they’d bitten off more than they could chew.

27 comments on “Lockout lifted”

  1. Monty 1

    Well of course I don’t raise my kids on $12.67 per hour – but then again I have skills that mean I get paid a whole lot more per hour. I also pay more in tax than the average bus driver would earn in a couple of years. But If I was in a job that paid such a low wage (and my lowest wage I have ever earnmed was $1.72 per hour in 1981) then I would upskill myself and go and find a new job instead of moaning abour it.

    While I appreciate the work the bus drivers do (and the cleaners who look after my buildings) each person should only be paid according to their economic contribution and the demand and rareity of their skill set. Simple. No one forces those bus drivers to work as a bus driver they are free to find alternate work elsewhere – then if the bus company wanted to run a service It would need to pay more to attract the drivers – simple supply vs demand.

  2. Tane 2

    So, Monty, you’re a market fundamentalist who believes in a mythical free market, devoid of economic power relations, in which the value of each person’s work is based purely on what someone else is willing to pay for it.

    You’re free to believe that, and indeed encouraged to in our capitalist system. But don’t think for a second that it’s anything more than a convenient mythology that allows you to justify your class privelige at the expense of those below you.

  3. IrishBill 3

    That’s right Monty, everyone should upskill and then nobody would have to drive a bus. But then how do we all get to our highly paid and highly skilled jobs?

  4. Anita 4


    There are plenty of people who can’t, for a whole range of reasons, get a new job in a higher paying industry than the one they’re in. That doesn’t mean they, and their families, should be forced to live in poverty.

    We are supposed to be a civilised egalitarian society: no-one should be earning that little; no kids should be going to school hungry; all homes should have power, phone access, food, books; everyone should have access to healthcare, reasonable housing and education.

  5. Tane 5

    Irish. The market will provide, you fool. Shame on you for your lack of ambition.

  6. Phil 6

    But then how do we all get to our highly paid and highly skilled jobs?

    We all drive ourselves!

    Then, when the costs of gridlock become too much for some and they demand an effective alternative, some cunning entrepreneur creates a public transport network using AI trains and buses.


  7. Anita 7


    That’s right Monty, everyone should upskill and then nobody would have to drive a bus. But then how do we all get to our highly paid and highly skilled jobs?

    I think that’s what the third world is for. It’s like structural unemployment with an extra hint of racism and the guilt-dampening power of distance and language barriers.

  8. Jeeves 8

    I like capitalism. I also respect bus drivers. I think bus drivers should get paid more. Bus drivers could get paid more if the price of bus tickets went up. But people would complain if the price of bus tickets went up.

    I rarely catch the bus because I don’t like sitting with poor people. However on occasion I am impoverished myself, due to sporadic spending sprees, in which case I sometimes take the bus on cross-town jaunts. I would happily pay an extra dollar to know that the driver was able to feed his kids (I can barely feed myself on my modest salary).

    People of all political walks of life need to realise that it’s not something that is solely for the bus company and/or government to solve. Everything we consume has goods and services that are used up to produce it. One of those things is labour. If people honestly cared about the lot of bus drivers (which they should, as we live in a polite society) they would write to Go Wellington and tell them that they would rather pay an extra dollar for a bus ride and know that they are not taking improper advantage of unskilled labour.

  9. Matthew Pilott 9

    Monty wants people to be paid according to their country’s population versus the number of available jobs.

    What a world he wants. Monty, your ambition, vision and drive are more pathetic than anyone I’ve met (apart from all the other visionless people who trot out the same meaningless, thoughtless and just plain IQ-70 dumb line as you did above).

    I wonder if GO honestly thought they could starve the workers out, vs the workers’ ability to resist for a week – because how long did GO really think Wellington could do without busses? Methinks they were thinking with the wrong part of their anatomy (which at least puts them one up over Monty).

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    “each person should only be paid according to their economic contribution and the demand and rareity of their skill set”

    So what’s a Wall St banker worth?

  11. Janet 11

    It took me an hour to drive from Thorndon to Kilbirnie between 5 and 6 this evening (usually 15 mins by car or bus). The gridlock was as bad as the worst of Auckland, even though it was lovely weather and lots of people were walking (they were quicker than the traffic was moving).

    Show how much we need our public transport, and to value the bus drivers more.

  12. Anita 12


    each person should only be paid according to their economic contribution and the demand and rareity of their skill set

    So people whose skillset is not rare or in demand should be allowed to starve?

    Surely in a civilised society no-one, no matter how common their skillset, should be left behind to live in poverty.

  13. Felix 13

    I don’t recall Monty ever suggesting an interest in a civilised society.

    He’s fairly consistent if nothing else.

  14. Monty 14

    Thanks all for the wonderful reactions. I appreciate the work bus drivers do – but on the basis of th elogic from the leftists here maybe we should all go an pay busdrivers $25 per hour. Problem then is that more productive people whose economic contribution is more would want to become busdrivers for the so called good pay. As I said – no one is forcing these guys to drive buses – if they don’t like it they could go and retrain in an area that would pay more (such as a long distance trusk driver, or a landscape gardener, or a dentist – depending on their talents.

    As I said I was paid $1.72 per hour back in 1981. I thought to myself – I can do better – so I went and worked on an orchard for $4 per hour. Then I decided I can do better – so I went to university – and was paid as a graduate in 1989 $12.50 per hour. then I went to England and got paid 10 quid and hour, then back in NZ I worked for a bank for probaly $30 per hour. Now I cannot even measure my hourly rate – it does vary but I suppose somewhere between $50 and $500 per hour depending on what I am doing – see the pattern here – I did not like what I was getting so I have kept on moving up – it is called self responsibility. I have never belonged to a union, I have never gone on strike, and I hve always looked for better ways to earn more money – for a guy whose highest mark in school cert was 53%, and maybe has an IQ of 70 according to one silly leftist. But I have only ever been paid according to my economic contribution. The Market does work and interference distorts the market. Tough for those earning crap money – but then if they accepted some self responsibility maybe they would not earn the crap money for too much longer. So while I love getting the bus (I use it all the time to travel from Manners St to north Lambton Quay instead of takign a taxi) I believe the bus driver – or any of us can only expect to me paid on the basis of our skill set, the demand for thos skills and the economic contribution those skill will deliver to someone else.

  15. Carol 15

    How exactly do you measure a person’s economic contribution? How do you compare, let alone measure, the work of, say, a teacher with a business-person? And what if the teacher’s work results in a few of her ex-students going on to make a massive economic contribution to society, while the business-person really only makes a lot of money for themselves?

    And what kind of economic contribution does a tobacco manufacture make? Do you take money off if their product costs the country loads of money in health care?

  16. burt 16


    There are plenty of people who can’t, for a whole range of reasons, get a new job in a higher paying industry than the one they’re in. That doesn’t mean they, and their families, should be forced to live in poverty.

    I agree completely. Defining poverty is however a little more complex. If you look at the number of people that could be killed or seriously injured if a bus had a major accident it’s astounding that bus drivers are paid so little. There is however an interim solution while the employers get their shit together and realise the value of the ‘pilots’ of the public transport network.

    Each driver should have a tin, written on the tin –

    Tip me if you think this job deserves more than $12.67 $12.85 an hour.
    (Sorry I allowed for one massive union negotiated pay rise)

    Good drivers make for a great ride, we should tip them for that as well. It’s a simple approach because if we pay the drivers more the fares go up. If the fares go up even people who are struggling to pay the current fare are impacted. Folk who can throw a gold coin or two for good service or to support the undervalued have no avenue in NZ. Few places outside of bars and cafe’s have tip gars.

  17. Anita 17


    Aren’t you conflating a person’s economic contribution with the value the market is prepared to pay for them?

  18. Lew 18

    Monty: Ok. But it comes back to the market, in the end. Bus drivers wouldn’t necessarily be wise to switch jobs when they might possibly get a sufficiently good deal in their existing job. It’s about risk – changing jobs is a risk, and the reward of a new job needs to be that much higher to make it worthwhile. Yes – perhaps they COULD go and retrain and better themselves (some can’t – for eligibility reasons, for visa status, for all manner of other reasons), but then, why should they have to? If they perform a useful service, should they not be able to live a reasonably comfortable life?

    Ultimately, they’ll end up getting paid what the market will support – but they won’t ever get to that point unless they use all the possible options available to them. Just as GO Wellington takes every advantage it can in law, so too should its drivers. Right? Because it sounds like you’re advocating that the drivers forgo some of their rights to bargain, while GO Wellington retains all its rights.

    That’s what’s at issue here – striking isn’t fundamentally a moral issue, it’s a pragmatic issue given moral weight by those striking. (The right to strike is a moral issue, but that’s a different argument). Likewise, a lockout is a means to an end with moral overtones. Ultimately, given reasonable labour law, neither side should enjoy undue advantage. So perhaps what you’re arguing is that NZ’s labour laws are too strongly weighted toward the unions. At which point I return to the following logic:

    If they perform a useful service, should they not be able to live a reasonably comfortable life?

    If they don’t perform a useful service, why do people care if they strike an hour a day?


  19. Monty 19

    Carol – Essentially supply and demand. To ensure my kids get a good education, I am happy for the Ministry of education to pay enough to attract enough good teachers to the school where my three children go each day. If the Ministry of Education decided teachers were worth another $10 per hour (or better still make it dependant upon KPIs being acheived) then maybe the number of people wanting to become teachers significantly increased and schools could better picka nd choose who to empploy) Or I could decide that my kids could go to a catholic school and I would be happy to payy additional for that.

    Tabacco is an interesting question – Generally I agree that smokers should pay the cost of the healthcare associate – but I suppose that if ciggies were $20 a packet (taxes being increased that much, would demand for the product decrease? I suggest it would – stupid habit for a start – but then most people I see smoking seem to look like Labour voters anyway so what would one expect.

    These are marco-economic questions – and listening to the economically illiterate Sue Bradford a couple of weeks back at a social-justice meeting I went to it is very evident that the left have no idea of the concept of supply and demand for services.

  20. Monty 20

    Lew – I absolutely support the right of drivers to strike – I even support them all th emore during an election camapign in which Labour is way way behind in the polls. It come back to my point – finding the balance between what the employee is willing to offer his skills for and the amount an employer (and a consumer will pay for thos services). And it is a constant act of balancing. For example – say GO wellington thought it could pay drivers $1 per hour – then none would turn up for work – right now say they pay $25 an hour then hundreds may want to turn up for work – but there are only 222 buses – so Go Wellington need to pay enough for 222 drivers to turn up for work – I expect there are also managers – they need a few – so the company pays more for a particular skill set there as well.

    I am currently do a job that is very specialised – if I was paid $40 per hour I would tell them where to stick it – I ask for $500 and although they do not nee that all the time – I get paid that for a specialised skill set a small portion of the time. I have other skills that depending on the task at hand I get a lesser and lessor rate right down to about $50 per hour – if demand for the high paying work increases (as it is at present) then I will drop off the least valuable work to me. – until I feel I have done enough for the day / week and I value time with my family or diving more than anyone could ever pay me. So on this basis and on my priorities i am a huge fan of market forces.

    And I have worked at the low end of the scale – I know what it is like to work hard and then think is that all. But that is the reality of life – each person is responsible for thier own. (well except those who cannot genuinely help themselves and as a member of society I am very happy to help those people. –

  21. randal 21

    well way back then , muldoon said those who worked the hardest should get the most money but the drivers are still fighting for more money. moral of the story: dont trust national

  22. Graeme 22

    Tane – is it really a backdown?

    The drivers initiated strike action in a manner which annoyed the bus company (peak times, etc.). The bus company relatiated by locking them out. The drivers withdrew their strike notice, and are now driving without disruption.

    This is exactly what the bus company wanted. It’s still paying the low wages, hasn’t agreed to an increase in excess of their “final” offer, and the buses are running. They might look bad, but if a lockout is designed to break strike action, then the employer had remarkable success.

  23. yl 23


    thanks so much for walking us all through your beliefs, and also the way you can use economics to explain and justify all aspects of your life.

    You must have loved the 1990’s.

    I feel sad for you, i understand you probably consider yourself quite a happy guy, but i do feel sorry that you think life can be justified and explained through simply economic supply and demand.

    You argument is flawed in so many ways. For starters, for your theory to work you need to assume that everybody in society understands the system, understands how it works, and is happy to participate within it. This is an assumption that is made and is incorrect. It is the same assumption that Roger Douglas outlines in all four of his books.

    I am not happy to live in a society where poverty is an issue.

    Once again thanks for sharing your view on how you justify your life. I guess it is two people sitting on different sides of the fence.

    Captcha: whole troubling

  24. Tane 24

    Graeme, the bus company was always aware of the when the strike notice was due to take effect. It was spelt out in black and white in the notice.

    Note also that the lockout notice was indefinite, not for the duration of the strike notice.

    The lockout was never about certainty as the company claims, it was about intimidating the workers. You’ve got to realise GO Wellington has invested a lot of PR into this dispute, including half page ads in the paper attacking the union’s position. Of course they will come up with any excuse they can to justify locking out low income workers, and to justify withdrawing the notice.

    What went on behind the scenes is more interesting. Let’s just say a few conversations went on between the CTU and EMA Central, and pressure came on GO Wellington from more than one angle.

    Of course, I’m not claiming the bus drivers have won. Just that GO Wellington went too far with the lockout notice and has had to back down. The dispute now continues as it did before.

  25. Chris 25

    Yes monty all very well and good. But the union is acting in the market in this case is it not? It thinks it can get a better deal out of the business (GO Wellington) so it is withholding supply in order to stimulate demand. Businesses do this with products, so why can’t unions do it with human captial (for want of a better term)? Sure GO Wellington don’t have to agree, but that’s what happens in a market witout fixed prices, both sides bargain till an equilibrium price is reached that pleases both. The drivers know they’re unskilled, they also know that as unskilled as they are they’re worth more, so they’re using the power they have through the union the same way the business uses their power to pay them less, as that is what it is mandated to do. The market is working, just somehow not the way you want it to?

  26. Felix 26

    Attention lefties – our markets are not yours to meddle with.

    Please respect this convention and get back to work.

  27. marco 27

    Unfortunately the market economy system means that there has to be low paid poor for it to work. If everyone earned well then inflation would rise essentially correcting the market.
    However, the market economy also gives people and opportunity to better themselves. Low wages are the price paid for the our market system, whether we like it or not its here to stay.

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