Wellington Scoop

Bus drivers vs Tranzit: a standoff on pay and conditions


The union representing bus drivers says it’s “no secret” that it’s gearing up for strike action over the pay and conditions being offered by Tranzit, who take over 60 per cent of Wellington bus services in June.

RNZ reported yesterday that Tramways Union secretary Kevin O’Sullivan says:

… the new employer was offering a higher hourly rate of $22.20 for drivers in Wellington, but getting rid of other benefits that added up to about $29 an hour for workers now. “The main ones are penal rates, five weeks holiday … a transport allowance, we get things like that, that all adds up.” Tranzit had won the contract with the regional council because its tender was cheaper than incumbent operator NZ Bus, and staff were the biggest cost for any transport company, he said. “…one way or another, we are prepared to fight for our existing terms and conditions – no more, no less.”

Tranzit boss Paul Snelgrove sounded equally stubborn in yesterday’s report. He

…was adamant the new contracts wouldn’t include the drivers’ current terms and conditions. “We’re not comfortable at all in the slightest with their current agreement. It’s out of date and it’s inconsistent with our work life balance.” Drivers in Wellington city would be getting $22.20 an hour over a 40 hour week, which was far better than what they were getting now, he said. The 40 hours includes weekends and drivers wouldn’t get penal rates for that, but anyone working after midnight would be paid more.

The concerns were signalled almost a year ago, after a meeting of 300 Wellington bus drivers resolved not to work for Tranzit unless they could get a fair deal.

“The Regional Council has accepted a contract that takes millions of dollars from drivers,” says Wendy Parsons, a Wellington bus driver who, like most of her colleagues, stands to lose thousands of dollars a year. “They think it’s going to save money, but it’s at the cost of experienced drivers and a decent public transport system… Wellington’s buses will be at a standstill because the Council wanted to cut costs and there’s already a serious shortage of drivers.”

In a report last June, Kevin O’Sullivan said bus drivers were facing an average pay cut of $200 a week because of the re-tendering of bus services. He called it a “race-to-the-bottom tendering process.”

In November, he wrote about his concerns in a NZ Herald article:

I’m … one of the 700 bus drivers in Wellington facing a massive cut in income because the regional council has tendered its public transport service on cost. This is a mature industry where the buses, the depots, the fuel, all cost more or less the same regardless of provider, which means there are only two ways for bus companies to compete. Reduce the payroll or reduce the service.

… If the new contract in Wellington goes ahead it is likely to mean two or three million dollars a year coming out of drivers’ incomes, out of their families’ budgets, out of our local economy. I think that’s crook.

Kevin O’Sullivan has been a bus driver for 38 years.

The issue is to be taken to the Employment Relations Authority, with a tentative hearing at the end of the month.

NZ Bus and Auckland drivers agree on deal


  1. Tony Jansen, 20. April 2018, 12:59

    My full support for the bus drivers and their union. This is ultimately the responsibility of Steven Joyce (the former National Party genius – lol) who allegedly designed this tender process. Good to see he remained steadfast to national party ideology – stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

  2. Paul Stapp, 20. April 2018, 13:42

    The Labour Greens NZ First Government needs to address this issue and legislate to ensure grand parenting and red circling existing terms and conditions for workers who supported it. Labour had plenty of time in opposition to prioritise its spending, and this problem should have been in the mix. The Regional Council should be standing behind the Wellington drivers. Not undermining them.

  3. Peter Kerr, 20. April 2018, 16:54

    Mr. Snelgrove won’t be going far with the arguments he’s using presently.
    The existing work place agreement is not “out of date”. It’s been every bit a regularly negotiated settlement in which both sides participate.
    The idea that the existing agreement is “inconsistent with our work life balance” (apart from being a mangled phrase) is tosh, because the drivers have negotiated an agreement that DOES suit the arrangements they need to live a reasonable life.
    Mr. Snelgrove’s offer is an unashamed attempt to destroy the working conditions of vital workers. His attempts to explain his offer as something positive is a pitiful exercise in bluff.
    The commuters of Wellington need to actively support their drivers. We can start doing this by contacting our Members of Parliament now, and demanding that legislation change (such as that advocated by Paul Stapp, above) is introduced and passed, so that terms and conditions cannot be rolled over like this.
    I don’t see the GWRC being any positive influence on the outcome. Their public hand-washing, absolving them of any culpability in accepting this contract, indicates little concern for the people who do this stressful job.

  4. Andrew, 20. April 2018, 17:50

    When I lived in Dublin the bus drivers went on strike, however on strike they continued to work but did not collect fares. One way to keep public on side and also pressure the operator.

  5. Jonny Utzone, 20. April 2018, 21:29

    Err, no Andrew because Tranzit hands all ticket revenue to GWRC so GWRC ratepayers would lose out and bus users gain.

  6. Driver, 24. April 2018, 16:18

    The other ‘spanner in the works’ is the current recruiting by Public Transport operators from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, which are all recruiting from Wellington at present. Over the last two weeks, 17 drivers are off over the ditch, as they do not want to work for Tranzit and would rather go for $28 an hour and more. I think that speaks volumes.

  7. Ellie, 24. April 2018, 18:50

    This isn’t the Regional Council I voted for, or the city I want to live in. Remember Ruth Richardson’s “mother of all budgets’ took 20% out of circulation and the economy dropped 20%. It is false economy to reduce wages to the point people cannot buy products. In the end everyone loses. (Well almost everyone). Let the buses strike and run the buses, GWRC will lose money and have none to give to the company, needs a lesson somewhere along the line, even if it costs us in the short term.

  8. suhlym, 24. April 2018, 18:57

    I’m a driver for Go Wellington. My work life balance is just fine. I don’t appreciate Mr Snelgrove telling me that my work life balance is wrong, and his is right.

    My hourly rate works out to be $29.90. This allows me time with my family, to provide for my family, and to contribute to my community. If I take up the Tranzit offer, I will have to spend longer hours at work, less time with the family.

    Where is the work life balance??

  9. Chris Horne, 25. April 2018, 16:07

    I am a frequent user of our bus services. I was dismayed when GWRC engaged, at a considerable cost to rate-payers, foreign consultants to redesign our bus network. The council then ignored that work, apparently doing the re-design ‘in-house’. To compound its blunder, GWRC undermined NZ Bus, the experienced provider of our bus services for at least 2 decades, by awarding over 60% of the region’s bus-service contracts to Tranzit, a company determined to cut bus drivers’ take-home pay and conditions.

    Our drivers are responsible for buses costing several hundred thousand dollars each, the comfort and safety of bus passengers, and the safety of other road users. They do a wonderful job in often very difficult conditions. For Tranzit to seek to slash drivers’ take-home pay is grossly unfair, to put it mildly. Their ‘work-life balance’ would be greatly undermined if their penal rates and annual leave provisions were reduced.

  10. Peter Kerr, 29. April 2018, 13:05

    This is the text of a letter about this situation that I have just sent to Grant Robertson, MP.

    “Tranzit Bus Contract

    Dear Mr. Robertson,

    It is no secret that the winning of the contract to provide bus services to the GWRC for sixty per cent of their routes was achieved by stealing wages and conditions from bus drivers.

    The GWRC has abandoned any semblance of being a co-operative organization focused on the well-being of the citizens of Wellington through its acceptance of the contract. The Council has failed to honour the work and commitment of our drivers by delivering them, without any shame at all, into the hands of an operator who can only increase his personal fortune through the destruction of wages and conditions.

    Our Regional Council lacks our respect through behaviour like this. It is burdened by sinecured politicians who belong in another century.

    My plea to you is to act fast, and to enact legislation to ensure existing wages and conditions are “grand-parented” and maintained for the workers who won them. It is an act of violence against any worker to win advantage over her/him as the principle behind winning any public contract.

    This problem should be familiar to Labour, Greens and NZ First. I would expect enshrining hard-won, honestly negotiated terms and conditions by workers in a legislative bill would be a high priority with the Government. I’m urging you to make it so now.”

    I’ll include other local MPs soon. If you feel the same way about this abusive treatment of drivers, I urge you to get cracking, and demand some action to rectify it.