Bus drivers in Waikato and AKL on strike

updated By Jessica Tyson

Hundreds of bus drivers are taking strike action in Auckland and Waikato today.

In Auckland, around 100 Pavlovich and Ritchies Murphy bus drivers will be on strike for 24 hours, until 4am tomorrow. In Waikato 100 Go Bus drivers left the job from 5am to 9am.

First Union says the problem in Auckland is the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) which is focused more on maximising income and minimising subsidies, “resulting in tired, over-worked drivers and an unsafe transport system for commuters.”

“Drivers are also seriously overworked with some split shifts requiring them to be away from home for up to 14 hours a day,” the union said in a statement.

First Union spokesperson Jared Abbott says Auckland Council and Auckland Transport need to realise the PTOM model is defunct and impacting on the wellbeing of hundreds of working people.

“Bus drivers are not given the same everyday rights most of us have; like being able to spend time with family, have a hobby, or to have downtime to socialise and be an active member of their communities, he says.

"They can’t afford to pay bills and things like going to the movies and holidays are just not even considered.”

Bus drivers in Auckland will strike for 24 hours. Source: Māori Television.

Meanwhile, in Waikato, drivers are taking action 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 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."

Meanwhile, the Bus and Coach Association New Zealand recently disputed some of the union’s 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.  

Chief Operating Officer of Go Bus Nigel Piper says he's disappointed that Hamilton bus services have become targets for national action.

"We are currently in a facilitated bargaining process with First Union, which we have put a significant amount of effort into, it’s difficult to see the same commitment from the Union." 

Piper says the action will only affect Hamilton urban services and Go Bus will be making every effort to minimise disruption. Te Awamutu and Otorohanga services will run as normal.

For details of the revised timetables, visit the Busit website, www.busit.co.nz, or Facebook page www.facebook.com/BUSITWaikato/.