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Bus drivers start industrial action as students return to school

Continuing public transport problems with the Wellington region’s bus network will be further affected as Hutt Valley bus drivers begin industrial action, and returning school students boost passengers numbers.

Fifty bus drivers on Hutt Valley routes employed by Tranzit began industrial action at 5:00am this morning. The action is expected to affect services throughout the region, not just the Hutt.

Secondary school students return to school this morning across the region, with many facing new timetables and routes.

The bus drivers voted to take industrial action to protest what they are calling unlawful and dangerous shifts, and to get new provider Tranzit to begin promised negotiations.

The action will consist of the 50 drivers cutting their daily hours to a standard eight-hour day with breaks. Some drivers have been rostered on for more than the 14-hour threshold, or not getting paid meal breaks they are entitled to, according to the Tramways Union which is representing the drivers.

Wellington Tramways Union Secretary Kevin O’Sullivan says the industrial action is a last resort.

“We have spent the last year and a half trying to talk to the regional council Chair Chris Laidlaw, to try to get the Council and Tranzit to sit down and have an adult conversation about drivers’ terms and conditions and how to have a smooth transition of services between the old and new providers. They have refused.

“By refusing to protect drivers´ jobs and incomes, and by contracting a company that has no respect for its employees at all, the Greater Wellington Regional Council has created a situation where drivers are exhausted and the transport system is in chaos.

“We want Tranzit to start talking to us to sort this out, and we want the regional council to step in and make them do it. Our drivers and the public deserve better than this.”

Paul Snelgrove, managing director of Tranzit Group opposed the action.

“Our preparations for a busy week starting on Monday have gone really well, and we’ll deal with this situation too. But it’s a real shame that the union seems intent on punishing commuters.

“We’ve said we’ve got no issue discussing a possible collective agreement for union members. What we won’t do is engage with people who think scare-mongering and intimidation of our staff is the way to get what they want.”