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It has been a long time coming for Dunedin and Queenstown Orbus bus drivers. A commitment to pay them the living wage of $22.10 an hour was made by the Otago Regional Council in July last year, following campaigns by the Tramways Union and First Union.
When drivers had still not received the rise in April this year, the council committed to back-paying drivers to July 1 last year, but still did not provide a date on when the increase o might be made.
Yesterday, the regional council confirmed Ritchies drivers received their back-pay within the past week and were being paid the living wage.
However, Go Bus drivers are still waiting.
Transport manager Garry Maloney said a contract between the council and operator was needed to enable the back-payment, equivalent to the 2019 and 2020 living wage, to be paid.
The council and Ritchies had formed an agreement to enable Ritchies drivers to be paid, but contract discussions between Go Bus and the council were “yet to be concluded”, he said.
Go Bus operations director Nigel Piper said the company was working to get its drivers paid as soon as possible.
“We would love to conclude the agreement and get the drivers paid.
“The issue is now sitting with the regional council. We are waiting on them to come back to us.”
He hoped the matter of back-payment and paying the living wage in the future would both be in the same agreement.
“At the moment, there are some commercial parts of it that we have not been able to finalise with council.
“We are frustrated by it as well. We want to get this paid to the drivers, but we want to make sure that the commercial arrangements are appropriate.
“I am hopeful that we will be able to conclude this very shortly,” Mr Piper said.
Tramways Union delegate Steve Hansford said it was “great news” for Ritchies drivers.
Meanwhile, Dunedin Go Bus drivers were patiently waiting ‘‘as they have been for almost 15 months”.
For all drivers to receive back-pay during Covid-19 Alert Level 4 would be “outstanding”, as many drivers were on reduced pay, he said.
“The timing couldn’t be better for a boost in their morale and some extra dollars to help them through.
“We are hopeful that this first payout signifies the living wage being paid out weekly to our drivers,” Mr Hansford said.