Back the bus up

TVNZ reports: quote.

The ongoing dispute between Waikato bus drivers and their employer continues, this time with Go Bus pushing back against its workers.

The company announced through a press release today that from 5am tomorrow, union-member employees will not be able to access their place of work nor will they be paid. The lock-out comes on the same day drivers had planned to begin a pay protest in which they would refuse to collect fares from passengers. end quote.

Quite frankly, there is not much point in letting the buses travel as normal when the drivers have already said that they will not collect fares. I still cannot believe the stupidity of this. If drivers want the Living Wage, this is not the way to achieve it. quote.

The strong response by the iwi-owned company has incensed FIRST Union, which had helped plan the protest.

?Locking out low wage bus drivers and depriving them of income just weeks before Christmas is shocking and it?s not something we would expect to see from even the worst employer,”?says FIRST Union divisional secretary Jared Abbott. “The values at play here are appalling.? end quote.

I disagree. Allowing passengers to travel without paying for their journey is theft, and the drivers are complicit in this. It is industrial sabotage. Let us not try to garner sympathy for the workers if this is what they intend to do. quote.

The union says bus drivers agreed to the free fare protest to drive home the message to their employer and to the district council, which engages Go Bus, that drivers can?t continue on such abysmal wages. It was intended as a way to make their voices heard without punishing passengers by going on strike, the union says.

However, Go Bus argues the lock-out, which it says is indefinite until drivers drop their claim for a living wage, is intended to “protect employees”.

?Providing a safe workspace is paramount,”?Chief Operating Officer Nigel Piper says. “The majority of drivers are non-union members, but the decision from FIRST Union members to not collect fares puts all other drivers at risk of verbal abuse and physical assault if passengers think they are going to get a free ride, and don?t. end quote.

Well, that is one argument, I suppose. The other argument is that the bus company has to stop the financial sabotage that the workers are intent on executing. This dispute has gone on for over a year now. What happens if the drivers have a free travel day for passengers every week until the dispute is ended? The bus company will be broke in no time. quote.

?Furthermore, Go Bus is contracted to provide bus services in the region and collecting fares is part of that contract, therefore we must act,” he says.

Mr Abbott has hit back, saying ?low wages cause harm, and right now drivers cannot live off these wages”.

“All they?re asking for is the living wage so they can afford to live, and the company has responded by locking them out. This reinforces the complete inability of Go Bus to realise the reality of the situation. The actions of Go Bus are inhumane.? end quote.

Er, no. The drivers were trying to hold the company to financial ransom. Recognise their actions for what they really are.

If you don’t earn enough as a bus driver, then go and do something else. Become a doctor, a lawyer, a builder, a plumber… and if you cannot do that, then you may have to adjust your living standards. That is the reality. No one gets a free ride in the real world. quote.

Go Bus will work with the regional council to provide an amended timetable utilising a reduced number of drivers. This timetable will be published on the Council?s Busit web page, and a summary will be available on the Busit Facebook page as well. This timetable will be in place until further notice. end quote.

Good on Go Bus for taking control. The drivers deserve to have their claims considered in due course, but financial sabotage is a totally different matter; and no employer should have to put up with that.