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Bus drivers' strike in Dunedin over 'pathetic pay offer'

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Bus strikes continue in the transport sector, this time it’s Dunedin drivers who’ve had enough.

Ritchies bus drivers in Dunedin will take strike action Saturday 2nd March from 7am until 7am Sunday to protest over delays and breakdowns in bargaining and the company’s refusal to meaningfully improve wages.

The drivers will also be holding a picket at the Octagon on Saturday from 10am to midday placards and a petition for Dunedin residents to sign.

Notice to commence Bargaining was initiated in May last year. The company ignored months of requests to bargain. The Union has offered to take the disputed matters to Mediation but Ritchies has refused to go to Mediation and say they want to continue negotiating but are not bringing anything new to the bargaining table.

FIRST Union Southern Region Secretary Paul Watson says the company is not negotiating.

"We are striking over a breakdown in bargaining and improving wages. Members were offered a pathetic offer of just $19 dollars an hour with no back pay. $19.00 an hour is still a low hourly rate for bus drivers and well below the Living Wage. Negotiation is about give and take. Ritchies is simply taking as much as it can. Union members are simply asking for a fair go. All they have seen is an employer dragging out bargaining and then offering something that to be honest, is offensive."

He says Ritchies needs to value its workers.

"Our members deserve the Living Wage. This is a wage that would allow them to pay for life’s necessities and be more active in their communities, it’s not a big ask. They do a good job working long hours and for inadequate pay. The strike and picnic picket tomorrow is to send a clear message to Ritchies and the public that these Dunedin bus drivers will not put up with this ill-treatment any longer."

Mr Watson adds that the tendering model FIRST Union’s Bus Fair campaign seeks to end is what allows companies to offer such low rates.

"It is a race to the bottom on wages. Under the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) companies are rewarded for making a profit through cutting wages rather than providing a decent service to the public with decent pay rates that ensure workers can live a healthy life outside of work. This hopeless system is what all drivers throughout New Zealand are up against. For goodness sake, scrap PTOM."

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