Can’t Go home: Bus drivers go on strike

Go Bus drivers in Auckland took strike action yesterday as relations reached a new low with their employer.

FIRST Union said it follows a week where the company cancelled regular wage bargaining and “arbitrarily suspended union-affiliated drivers, rejected mediated bargaining and endangered the safety of striking workers”.

Drivers from the East Tamaki (the depot is at 352 East Tamaki Road) and Airport Go Bus depots withdrew their labour from 4am yesterday for 24 hours.

“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 (Tuesday) declined Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s offer to attend mediated bargaining with drivers.

FIRST Union said that bus drivers were left with 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,” FIRST Union said.

“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.”

Go Bus drivers in Auckland took strike action yesterday Photo:

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.

“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.”

Go Bus was approached for comment.