Delay of promised pay ‘cruel’ - union

Dozens of Otago bus drivers continue to wonder where their long-promised living wage is and they have rallied to protest against the hold-up in receiving it.

Otago regional councillors decided in June last year Dunedin and Queenstown Orbus bus drivers should get the living wage, which was $22.10 an hour at the time.

In May this year, councillors agreed the planned pay increase should be backdated to July last year, but money has still not flowed into many drivers’ bank accounts amid contract negotiations with bus companies.

The regional council reached an agreement with Ritchies Transport last month, but not yet with Go Bus Transport.

Drivers who gathered at the Dunedin bus hub yesterday urged the parties to resolve the dispute.

Bus driver of 15 years Marlene McDonald, of Dunedin, said drivers had been caught in the middle and they had to keep on waiting for what had been promised.

Tramways Union Dunedin branch president Alan Savell said numerous emails had been written, polite replies received and hopes expressed that a resolution might come soon.

Bus drivers gathered at the Dunedin bus hub yesterday to protest against lack of progress in...
Bus drivers gathered at the Dunedin bus hub yesterday to protest against lack of progress in getting them the living wage. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
However, bus drivers had had to tell their families 64 weeks in a row that the money was not there, Mr Savell said.

"It’s actually quite cruel.

"We don’t know who’s at fault.

"We just want the dispute between the regional council and the bus companies to be over."

Go Bus Transport chief executive Calum Haslop said the company understood drivers’ frustrations.

The council and central government had committed to a funding top-up of wages and the company supported providing drivers with the living wage, he said.

"Unfortunately, to date, we have not received an agreement from Otago Regional Council that fully funds that wage increase, despite long, drawn-out discussions."

The company had provided feedback to the council and was awaiting its next move.

"Until we receive an agreement that fully funds the change and supports the commitments they have made, we are not able to move forward on this issue."

Otago Regional Council transport manager Garry Maloney said the council was working hard to get to a resolution.

"There are differences of opinion around some of the finer details in the contract variation that need to be resolved," he said.

"We understand the position the drivers are in and we know they have done an absolutely fantastic job at running the buses, particularly as an essential service during lockdown, and we thank them for that."

Mr Savell wrote a letter to the regional council, requesting that it deduct his rates bill from overdue backpay.

Mr Maloney said support was available for rates payments for people who needed it, including through rebates, remission and postponement.

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary said the dispute showed why the Government’s labour reforms promoting fair pay agreements were needed.

"Once we get fair pay deals in place, we won’t get situations like this."

The living wage moved to $22.75 an hour from this month.


They should have plenty of money after looking at my latest rates bill

When employers pay less than the "Living Wage" we can take it for granted they don't think those people deserve to live. Certainly they don't deserve to live in dignity, with the ability to support themselves and their families. Even the "Living Wage" now up to $22.75 an hour from this month is a poor reward for their hours of work and their responsibility for safety of passengers and everyone else on the roads.

So this is what we get for a 72% increase in rates. I bet there are no delays when the Councillors want their pay?