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Bus drivers strike is on: here’s what you need to know (update)

Planned industrial action by the Tramways Union will affect Tranzurban bus services in Wellington City, the Hutt Valley and Porirua from today, Thursday 25 October.

When does the strike begin?
It’s on now.

When will it finish?
The end date advised by the union is 30 November, but union secretary Kevin O’Sullivan says that this date was chosen only because strike notices legally required an end date. In effect, the strike is indefinite.

How come the strike didn’t start on Tuesday, as originally advised?
O’Sullivan says that the first notice of industrial action provided to Tranzurban had items in it that needed to be addressed to comply with the Employment Relations Act. That notice was cancelled on advice from the union’s lawyers, and then reissued with a start date of 25 October.

Why is the strike happening?
The Greater Wellington Regional Council has re-contracted many of the region’s routes to a new provider, Tranzit, which is running the service through its subsidiaries Tranzurban Wellington and Tranzurban Hutt. Many drivers on those routes lost their jobs. Drivers who are now working for Tranzit are facing much worse terms and conditions, according to the Tramways Union – and Tranzit is refusing to negotiate with the union.
O’Sullivan says the strike is a matter of last resort. “We have been trying to get Tranzit to negotiate for months and still have no offer from them or any indication they are taking the bargaining seriously. This is why we have now had to set a deadline.”

Which routes face disruption?
Routes operated by Tranzurban Wellington and Tranzurban Hutt.

So, not all routes?
No. The Tranzurban companies have the contract from the GWRC to run around 60 per cent of the region’s routes, including around half of Wellington City routes, and Hutt Valley and Wairarapa services. The rest are run by Mana Coach Services, Uzabus and NZ Bus. These will not be affected by the industrial action.

Why not?
Last Friday, a Tramways Union stop-work meeting ratified an agreement with NZ Bus (which runs a number of key Wellington routes such as 2, 3, 12, 14, 18, 18e, 21, 22, 81, 83, 84 and 85). Kevin O’Sullivan described it as “a really good settlement” with drivers getting a four per cent pay rise over the next two years, an extra week’s holiday, a shift allowance and a bargaining process agreement. The union is using this settlement as the bottom line for any agreement with the other bus operators. An agreement was already in place with Mana Coach Services,. During discussions last week with Uzabus, an offer was tabled that the union is considering. It was decided not to proceed with industrial action on Uzabus services while these discussions are taking place.

What else do the drivers want?
Drivers have also raised a unanimous vote of no confidence in the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and called for a commissioner to take over the region’s public transport.

How likely is that to happen?
The Government has reconvened its Transport and Infrastructure committee meeting tomorrow, to receive briefings on the Wellington bus situation from 9.30am.

What services will be affected?
Metlink, the arm of the GWRC that administers the service from the contracted bus companies, has a list of affected services on its website, here. Metlink notes that not all services listed will be directly impacted by the industrial action, but some may experience heavy patronage demand and delays.

How can I keep up with changes?
Check the Metlink app within The Wellington App or the  Metlink website. This should be updated regularly throughout the strike. Or call the Metlink team on 0800 801 700.

How do the drivers and union feel about causing this travel disruption?
“We don’t want to make life harder for Wellington commuters,” says O’Sullivan, “the council has already done enough of that, but if we don’t take a stand things are only going to get worse for everyone. I think the people of Wellington understand that which is why our members have had so much support.”

How can I get involved?
The Thank You Driver website is running a petition, asking the Greater Wellington Regional Council to provide job security for Wellington’s bus drivers. It is currently about 600 names short of its 12,000 target. You can sign the petition here.