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Bus drivers set to get a pay rise

Wairarapa bus drivers are in for a pay increase to $28 an hour.

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] voted to lift bus driver wages to an average of $30 per hour in urban areas and $28 per hour in the regions at a meeting this week.

Benefitting from the decision are Tranzurban drivers in Wairarapa, and Uzabu drivers in Kapiti – all other GWRC areas are considered to be urban.

Ongoing bus cancellations caused by a national shortage of drivers led to the recommendation from the council’s public transport wing, Metlink, as a way of attracting and retaining frontline staff.

The agenda said there is a shortage of about 125 drivers in the Wellington Region.

A council spokesperson said wage increases of between $1 and $3 per hour will be funded by the council, central government, and bus operators.

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions [NZCTU] said bus drivers across the country were already celebrating on Wednesday as New Zealand’s first-ever initiation of a Fair Pay Agreement [FPA] negotiation was given the green light, which it claimed “will help transform the industry”.

“This Fair Pay Agreement will be integral in rejuvenating the bus driving industry, with better pay, working conditions, training, and health and safety practices,” NZCTU president Richard Wagstaff said.

Bus drivers have been “trapped” in an industry where competitive tendering under the public transport operating model has created a “race to the bottom” for employment conditions, while the successful negotiation of an FPA in the industry will bring an end to bad employment conditions, Wagstaff said.

The agreement is about more than pay, according to the NZCTU boss – it will also provide a mechanism to address the serious health and safety issues in the industry, including the increasing number of violent attacks on bus drivers.

Although driver pay was increased by GWRC, some councillors were still concerned about drivers’ working conditions.

“Why are drivers still having to use portaloos?” councillor Ros Connelly asked.

“I just don’t want us to think this [the pay rise] is a panacea; it needs to be part of the puzzle.”

Councillor Adrienne Staples, meanwhile, said she was happy to support the pay rise, but she didn’t want the council to “sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say everything is fine”.

“It’s still only giving a bus driver an income of approximately $60,000 per year… I don’t imagine there are many people in our organisation who only earn $60,000 a year.”

Staples said the council needs to let the drivers know that they are respected and loved.

Councillor Thomas Nash said it was important for the council to increase pay because it demonstrates “how much we value drivers”.

The council has worked hard to raise wages, Nash noted, but it is also important to increase working conditions in terms of hours of work, facilities, and rest stops.

Drivers will be back paid to April 1 with the new rate.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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