BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

As a mechanical train engineer, Daniel Hughes does not want to strike on Thursday.

But if that is what it will take to come to a fair agreement with the region’s train employers, then it has to be done, he says.

On Thursday, all train services across the region will come to a halt in the bid to get the attention of the trains’ operators.

The strike will be for 24 hours, which started at 2am on Thursday.

It will be the first full day strike since 1994, and due to the short notice, Metlink is unable to provide bus replacements.

Mr Hughes, from Masterton, has been working in the rail industry for more than 20 years.

Until Transdev Wellington and Hyundai Rotem were employed by the Greater Wellington Regional Council about 18 months ago, there were no issues with previous employers, Kiwirail, he said.

GWRC own the trains, and employ Transdev to run services which are maintained by Hyundai Rotem.

The two multinational companies are demanding the removal of long-standing terms and conditions in the collective agreement.

But Transdev says there is no need for the strike, or for the union to use customers as leverage.

Mr Hughes, who is a Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) delegate and an engineer representative on its board, said there were many issues with his employers.

The original agreement which was 14 years in the making would be thrown out if Hyundai Rotem and Transdev succeed, he said.

“We want to keep our original terms and conditions the same and have a fair wage to cover inflation – we aren’t asking for a lot.”

Transdev spokesman David Gould said he urged his staff to discuss issues again with the union.

“We have told the union and the mediation service we’re available to talk at any time, but the union’s refusal to even discuss Transdev’s claims is hardly negotiating in good faith.”

Transdev has accepted all of the RMTU claims and offered a package that will improve the overall pay and allowances of staff by almost two per cent, he said.

A Wairarapa train manager and RMTU delegate, who did not want to be named, said the strike was a last resort for staff.

The employers are “trying to force us” to sign its new agreement, but the staff have refused.

“On a personal level, we feel we are not valued, and we are understaffed.”

What commuters think

 

Some Wairarapa commuters are encouraging Transdev staff to stand up for terms of employment.

Amy Ross commutes form Featherston to Wellington daily, and said it was “fantastic” they were taking he strike.

“It must have been a brave decision, knowing it will impact lots of commuters, but they need to stand up to protect their rights — I support them 100 per cent.

“Transdev are just trying to profit off the backs of hardworking Kiwis,” she said.

Jenny Whyte also commutes from Featherston to Wellington CBD daily and supports the strike.

“Transdev want to take away their rights to not work on public holidays, and to get penal rates and they are trying to negotiate a pay rise of only 2 per cent,” she said.

“I don’t blame them for this disruption – their employer should come back to the negotiating table and stop trying to erode their terms and conditions — our train staff are lovely, and they deserve fair pay.”

But commuter Sean Roberts said it was a bit disappointing the strike announcement had come at such short notice.

The impact on commuters who may not have been able to arrange alternative travel plans was an issue, he said.

“Nor may they have the ability to work from home, or indeed may not have leave available — those commuters could be faced with losing a day’s pay too,” he said.