Waikato bus drivers go on strike

By Regan Paranihi

120 bus drivers throughout the Waikato Region are on strike today from 5:30am until Midnight to show their frustration at bad work conditions and low pay rates.

FIRST Union's Transport and Logistics Organiser Jax Oldham says low income can cause a number of issues for workers who are constantly fighting for more hours.

“While Auckland drivers are forced to be away from home for 14 hours a day due to low pay (and all the safety issues that come with a fatigued driver), Waikato bus drivers often either have to constantly fight for more hours, or be partially retired- so able to work part-time."

Oldham says drivers have been asked to jam brooms in opening doors, duct-tape steering wheels and to drive faulty buses with electrical and mechanical faults.

“From passengers sitting in the dark and cold due to failed lighting and air-con units stuck on freezing, to drivers having to fit into steering and seat configurations that cause pain over long periods of driving, it's a mess."

She says the drivers shouldn’t be responsible for the maintenance of the buses, "Bus drivers aren't qualified mechanics so don't really know the condition of the engines or tires of the vehicles, and shouldn't be asked to check these.  But if the internal problems are anything to go by, it doesn't look good."

Oldham says, “These drivers are afraid that their refusal to carry out their duties as their manager asks will have an impact on their job security and most just want to avoid workplace conflict.”

However, in a statement released today, the Bus and Coach Association NZ disputed some of the union claims.

"The serious allegations being made by unions about the safety of bus operations in the Wellington, Waikato and Auckland regions are not supported by the findings of either the NZTA or the police, who check vehicle and working time requirements at both scheduled and random times," the statement reads.  

The association says union claims of disrepair are not factual and such issues would prevent the buses from operating under their conditions. 

"These facts don’t sit comfortably with these organisations, who are also refusing to engage in good faith bargaining with our members, making resolution difficult and disrupting the lives of our passengers."

The drives will picket outside the Hamilton Transport Centre from 7:30am to 9:30am and from 2:30pm to 6pm.