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Waikato bus drivers strike over unsafe work conditions

Press Release – First Union

Around 120 drivers from Hamilton, Otorohanga, and Te Awamutu will walk off the job tomorrow from 5:30am until midnight to show their frustration at low pay and bad work conditions. The drivers will gather for a picket outside the Hamilton Transport …Around 120 drivers from Hamilton, Otorohanga, and Te Awamutu will walk off the job tomorrow from 5:30am until midnight to show their frustration at low pay and bad work conditions. The drivers will gather for a picket outside the Hamilton Transport Centre from 7:30 am to 9:30 am and from 2:30 pm to 6 pm. Local media are invited to attend.

FIRST Union’s Transport and Logistics Organiser Jax Oldham says minimal pay causes a raft of other issues for workers and often signals a company is trying to cut corners. She says the issues faced by Waikato drivers are somewhat different to Auckland drivers.

“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.”

Ms Oldham says the aging bus fleet in the Waikato is a major issue; drivers have been asked to jam brooms in sporadically opening doors, duct-tape steering wheels, and to drive buses they have refused to drive due to 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 she shudders to think of what might lay under the bonnet when New Zealand Transport Agency figures show around a fifth of buses on New Zealand roads are more than 18 years old.

“Bus drivers aren’t qualified mechanics so don’t really know the condition of the engines or tyres 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.”

She vents her frustration at the company’s response to drivers’ concerns as it assumes drivers are not flagging these issues when she specifically states they are. She says drivers feel serious health and safety concerns have thus far been ignored, or pushed to the side.

“The company’s Operations Director should be concerned enough to make a more thorough attempt at finding out why there’s a discrepancy between bus drivers’ claims and what his managers are telling him. If there are as many people checking over the safety of the buses each week, how is something this concerning happening? It seems these defect lists are more to tick a box for health and safety for the company rather than actually be used for the purpose drivers fill them in for.”

Ms Oldham is also concerned with the effect these health and safety issues are having on non-union members who do not have Union representation.

“Our members are well aware that they can refuse to drive an unsafe vehicle. It has almost become standard for managers to hold back buses that members refuse to drive, for non-members who will drive whatever bus they are allocated.”

Go Bus site delegates are trying to support these drivers and let them know they can refuse to put their own and others health and safety at risk.

“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. It’s disgusting that the company takes advantage of employees like that.”

She says Go Bus management has tried to keep complaints from drivers at bay by letting them know the “dodgy” buses will be replaced by a newer fleet in December.

“Go Bus lost their contract in Tauranga effective December 2018. The company is doing shoddy repair jobs on problem buses so it can be deemed that they have made an attempt as they wait for their Tauranga buses to become available. Piling on duct tape to a broken steering column and riveting a piece of floor lino to a door is not a repair, it’s a blatant disregard to everyone’s health and safety. Telling drivers that they need to put health and safety on the backburner for four months isn’t a resolution. They’re company buses and an accident waiting to happen.”

ENDS

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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