Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bus drivers negotiate fair pay agreement

FIRST Union bus drivers have today become the first group of workers in the country’s history to successfully initiate a Fair Pay Agreement following its approval by MBIE, the union said today.

The union said it will now progress to negotiation, where drivers will aim to build a better bus system for all New Zealanders and deal with several urgent work issues.

FIRST Union Assistant General Secretary, Louisa Jones said she was proud of FIRST’s bus driver members and looking forward to productive negotiations between workers, employers and Government.

“This is our chance to deal with some of the overarching structural issues that have been embedded in the industry through the previous contracting model and rebuild a bus system that truly works for all drivers and passengers,” said Ms Jones.

“An FPA for the bus sector will cover everyone from drivers on our urban routes to rural school buses and give everyone a chance to contribute to the negotiating process, no matter where they are in Aotearoa or which employer they work for.

“We’re encouraged by the Government’s investment in the FPA model and share the belief that systemic change is necessary in the bus industry before we can make real progress on improving drivers’ working lives.”

Sid Kumar, an urban bus driver based in Auckland, said that FPA negotiations would prioritise the health and safety of bus drivers following an increasing number of violent assaults by passengers that were making many drivers feel unsafe at work.

“It’s crucial and it needs to happen now,” said Mr Kumar. “The FPA is the pathway for us to negotiate minimum expectations at work like increased security and developing better protections for drivers in the cabin.”

“We need significant investment in training drivers to ensure that more people stay in this job, because overseas recruitment isn’t going to be enough to fill the shortage of workers in the longer term.

“A good bus system needs experienced drivers who stay behind the wheel because they are transparently assured of fair pay and progression for the time they put into bus driving as a career.”

FIRST Union made the application just prior to Christmas in 2022 for a Fair Pay Agreement that will cover urban, school, and SESTA drivers. The union says it will work with Tramways Union and Amalgamated Workers Union to create a standard agreement that will be applicable nationwide.

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