Go Bus drivers in Auckland will be taking full strike action from tomorrow as relations reach a new low with their employer following a week where the company has cancelled regular wage bargaining, arbitrarily suspended union-affiliated drivers, rejected mediated bargaining and endangered the safety of striking workers, FIRST Union said today.
Drivers from the East Tamaki and Airport Go Bus depots will withdraw their labour from 4:00am tomorrow for 24 hours, which may cause some disruption to passengers in South Auckland. This follows weeks of non-disruptive protest that included free fares strikes, partial strikes, and repeated attempts to negotiate with both Go Bus as the operator and Auckland Transport as the service provider. Go Bus have also today declined MBIE’s offer to attend mediated bargaining with drivers.
FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing, Jared Abbott, said that bus drivers have been left no other option after being met with total hostility by their employer and receiving no response after writing to Auckland Transport.
“These drivers tried peaceful strike action and were met with arbitrary suspensions that targeted union delegates and anyone else holding out for fair wage bargaining,” said Mr Abbott.
“Both Go Bus and Auckland Transport have tried to pit drivers against the public, which is irresponsible and disingenuous – none of them have taken these actions lightly, and they care about their jobs and their passengers.”
“What they forget is that these drivers are the public, too – they’re low-waged workers fighting for a fair deal at work and regularly scheduled wage bargaining that doesn’t devolve into the zero-sum game that Go Bus have tried to force during one-sided negotiations.”
“Auckland Transport need to wake up and recognise that Go Bus are acting unlawfully and unethically – they’re funded to provide a proper service for the city but instead they’re undermining experienced drivers to keep wages low and pocketing the rest of it while their buses are under-maintained and their drivers are underpaid.”
Carol Clark, a 48-year-old bus driver and union delegate, believes union members are being targeted by Go Bus for seeking better wages and conditions while the wider public has been supportive throughout the industrial action.
“My passengers have been amazing, bringing me food and coffee and checking in on how the strike’s going – they understand that it’s not easy for anyone but they want to help,” said Ms Clark.
“They’re just amazed that anyone can work a 14-hour shift and stay polite and friendly on such low wages with poor working conditions.”
“I know my passengers well, and between them and the non-union drivers, there are lots of people supporting us and wondering why Go Bus wouldn’t want to negotiate with us.”
“Back at the depot, I’m seeing experienced union drivers being targeted by managers who don’t know how to do the job, and people being suspended for all sorts of historical stuff that Go Bus never cared about before and still don’t care about non-union drivers doing.”
Bargaining between FIRST Union members and Go Bus was initiated in May 2019, but the company was unwilling to enter negotiations with drivers until October. A new round of bargaining was set to begin again on Friday this week, but the employer has now cancelled it and continued to suspend striking drivers, as well as declining MBIE’s offer of mediated bargaining.
“It’s total nonsense to hear Go Bus claiming they’re worried about strike action being an inconvenience to commuters when just last week they were suspending drivers left and right simply for being members of a union who are trying to negotiate fair wages and conditions,” said Mr Abbott.
“Auckland Transport need to stop running interference for their bus operators and recognise that there’s something going very sour at Go Bus – they can’t afford to lose all of their experienced drivers, and there’s no reason they should be trying to.”
“We’re hopefully for a meaningful dialogue with Auckland Transport, but in the meantime, drivers have voted to continue with industrial action tomorrow.”
“We’re asking passengers to be patient and empathetic, bearing in mind that strike action like tomorrow’s is the absolute last resort for bus drivers.”