Wellington bus drivers’ battles continue

Don Franks

In December 2007 the Workers Party produced a Spark insert, Bus drivers stand up to the boss. It described how Management of Go Wellington imposed shift changes in 2007 that resulted in driver salary reductions of up to $20,000 a year. At the same time, the company introduced an alternative collective to the Tramways Union one, with inferior conditions and, unlike the Tramways collective, no penal rates. In December this contract was being challenged in the courts. This case is still before the employment court at the time of going to press, with a decision due in early February. Watch this space.

Since then there have been various developments at Go Wellington, and for other Wellington bus drivers. The first has been the typically capitalistic decision of Go Wellington to jettison responsibility for the maintenance of trolley bus wires, threatening workers currently employed in this area with redundancy. At this point it is unknown which company will win the contract for lines maintenance, but workers are likely to come out worse off from the deal.

More positively, Tramways members at Mana Coach Services Bus Company successfully defended their fifth week of annual leave. Prior to negotiating the Tramways agreement, Mana Coach Services negotiated a collective with the Central Amalgamated Workers Union (CAWU)(who were responsible for the flat rate contract at Go Wellington) which gave away the fifth week of leave. CAWU have the majority of members on site, making the struggle for the Tramways members difficult.

After being locked out by the company and a tough struggle, Tramways members were offered a $16 flat rate but losing the fifth week’s leave, or $15.75 and the fifth week. While this wasn’t a perfect result, it’s a plus that the collective strength of Tramways workers at Mana in Porirua and Paraparaumu helped defend the fifth week of leave.

Times may have changed. This writer recalls a Panama Hotel session in the late 1970s where present-day CAWU advocate Ritchie Gillespie strongly advised against workers selling off their hard-won job conditions for a few cents…

The Tramways collective at Go Wellington expires in early May 2008. This will be the first round of negotiations since management attacked drivers’ penal rates in 2007. The Spark understands that Go Wellington management have flapped their feathers and informally told drivers they’d better get ready for a big one. The signs are all out that bus drivers need to stand fast together over the coming year.

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