Drivers edge towards getting living wage

All hurdles appear to have been cleared to allow a group of Otago bus drivers to get their living wage at last, just ahead of Christmas.

However, drivers would not be celebrating just yet, Dunedin Tramways Union president Alan Saville said yesterday.

"We will just wait until it is in our bank accounts before we get excited," Mr Saville said.

Some bus drivers have had to wait months for their promised living wage while various entities worked through a slow-coach process.

The Otago Regional Council and NZ Transport Agency confirmed this week nothing significant now stood in the way of bus drivers getting the September 2021 rate of the living wage, $22.75 an hour.

Go Bus Transport drivers were told in late September they could expect to receive their pay increase imminently after an agreement was thrashed out with the regional council.

The council had reached an agreement with Ritchies Transport in August.

However, Mr Saville told regional councillors last week some drivers were still not receiving the September 2021 living wage.

Councillors were told by regional transport manager Garry Maloney implementation depended on co-investment from the transport agency, one of its committees was to approve it and it should then be signed off.

Regional council operations general manager Gavin Palmer said this week the council had received confirmation from the transport agency and purchase orders and invoices would now be generated at the new rate.

"We are doing our part as quickly as we can to get the September 2021 living wage paid to drivers," Dr Palmer said.

A transport agency spokeswoman said the council made a funding application to it in late November.

This was reviewed and had been approved.

The agency had committed from May to co-invest with regional councils to help them achieve payment of the living wage.

A broader saga has dragged on since the middle of last year.

Otago regional councillors decided in June last year Dunedin and Queenstown 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 did not immediately flow into many drivers’ bank accounts amid contract negotiations with bus companies.

Dr Palmer said the council was not the direct employer of the drivers, but it needed detailed payroll information from both bus companies.

There were significant complexities and negotiations involved, he said.

A full report on the process would be compiled early next year.

Dr Palmer said the transport agency had indicated it was investigating a streamlined process for ensuring wages continued to increase over time.

 - grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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