Coming bus service short of drivers

A bus company is struggling to find drivers for Queenstown’s heralded $2 bus service.

Ritchies Queenstown branch manager Nyall Fraser said he needed at least another 14 drivers and might have to fly some in from the North Island and provide accommodation for them.

‘‘We’re doing a bit of a freak-out here at the moment, to be honest,’’ Mr Fraser said.

The company has about 20 drivers across eight bus services working the resort at present.

But from November 20, the Otago Regional Council takes control, in partnership with the Queenstown Lakes District Council and NZ Transport Agency, and Ritchies becomes a contractor.

The new service will feature an expanded network with new routes and longer operating hours.

‘‘We’re still working through exactly what our staffing ratio needs to be - it isn’t in concrete yet,’’ Mr Fraser said.

‘‘But we’re thinking it’s going to be in the region of 35 to 40 drivers.’’

Recruitment had been under way for a number of weeks, with some success, but finding the staff was difficult.

‘‘We’re having difficulties with Immigration [NZ]. They’re not letting out-of-town people get visas so they can come and work for us. The people applying need sponsorship for their work visa.’’

Mr Fraser said not having enough drivers on day one was not an option.

‘‘We’ll just bring them in from another area, fly them in from Whangarei or Auckland or wherever.’’

Ritchies will bear the cost of that.

‘‘The price is fixed.’’

ORC manager support services Gerard Collings said earlier he was meeting managing director Andrew Ritchie at the end of this week.

‘‘They are working very hard to ensure the vacant positions are filled.’’



Not surprised by this. This is the downside of the competitive contract model where private contractors bid for bus contracts.

The only way contractors can cut costs is by (at worst) cutting drivers pay and conditions, as is happening in Wellington or (at best) keeping pay at bare minimum.

Given drivers pay rates are not much more than the minimum wage, it would be near impossible to live in Queenstown with its high living costs.

I have got an idea straight out of the QLDC playbook, why not get the mum and dad ratepayers to cough up for drivers accommodation. Why not, we get to subsidize everything else.

I agree rat1512
We're told repeatedly that wages are a function of the market and there's not much employers can do to change it. Yet, when there is a shortage of people to do the work, market forces suggest they should offer better packages. Instead of relying on the market we're told they have no control over, they circumvent the pressure on wages by trying to import people who have low expectations, no understanding of what it costs to live here and what they are entitled to under the law and so can be exploited. I wonder what the unemployment rate looks like in Queenstown...

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