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Regional Council criticized for treatment of bus drivers

Report from RNZ
The wheels fell off at a launch for new electric buses after the environment minister publicly called out the Greater Wellington Regional Council over its treatments of bus drivers.

It comes as the capital prepares for a full bus network changeover, with 106 people being made redundant as a new company takes over services on 15 July.

This morning more than 30 services were cancelled, and NZ Bus said driver availability was the main reason as drivers were finishing up their contracts and using up their leave entitlements.

The council launched its new electric, double-decker buses at Parliament today, but the event took an unexpected turn when the minister David Parker took the opportunity to fire a warning shot at local government officials for the way they had handled the contract transfer.

As one the guest speakers, Mr Parker told the audience – many of whom looked visibly shocked – the coalition government was changing the law to avoid exactly those kinds of practices.

“There have been controversies around the way in which this was tendered, there are some people still feeling very aggrieved.

“They feel they have lost in the process, that terms and conditions have been eroded in the tender process,” Mr Parker said.

It was clear the minister had delivered a different speech to what the council had expected.

The host of the launch then told the audience she would give them the information the minister had ‘left out his speech’, looking through her notes saying “this isn’t awkward at all”.

In response to the minister’s comments, chairperson of the Regional Council Chris Laidlaw said it was a very complicated situation, and he welcomed proposed changes to the legislation governing contract changes.

“I wish there had been a simpler formula … part of the difficulty is guaranteeing terms and conditions carry over is awfully difficult because whose terms and conditions are you talking about, there’s a huge array of different terms and different conditions.”

But he had a blunt messages for the drivers who did not turn up today.

“It is unacceptable and there are penalties for that; they are contracted to provide those services.”

4 comments:

  1. Wellington Commuter, 5. July 2018, 22:49

    When the Greater Wellington Regional Council accepted the bid from Transdev and Hyundai Rotem to run the region’s train services, both companies committed to employ rail workers who transferred from KiwiRail on the same or more favourable terms and conditions as part of their bid.

    Cr Laidlaw, you have been Chair of the GWRC throughout this whole period so why was worker transfer part of the PTOM rail contract but not part of the bus PTOM contracts ?

     
  2. Gillybee, 6. July 2018, 7:22

    @ Wellington Commuter: Don’t hold your breath waiting for Laidlaw to face questions on anything difficult or “complicated”. He should take the advice he gave to the drivers and “turn up” himself once in a while to meetings he’s been invited to by residents affected by the decisions he presides over.

    Nice one Minister Parker. Refreshing to see someone in government finally calling the GWRC on their spin. It’s been too long. Now for you and Mr Twyford to bring some changes to PTOM and rein in the influence of the NZTA – the tail that wags the Wellington public transport dog – despite contributing only 20% of the funding!

     
  3. Chris Laidlaw, 6. July 2018, 11:50

    For the very simple reason that the rail workforce had a single collective agreement and the transfer of staff was from a single employer to another single employer.( Transdev) It was a seamless transition. By contrast the Bus transition has multiple agreements that were impossible to reconcile, a wide range of terms and conditions and a number of new employers. A case of chalk and cheese.

     
  4. Peter Kerr, 6. July 2018, 17:07

    I’m pleased now that I wrote to Messrs. Andersen, Eagle, Robertson and O’Connor, our local MPs, about the failure of the GWRC to keep its promise about maintaining existing, or improving, conditions for drivers when new contracts were drawn up. I’m pleased too that the Minister laid into these officials who, it appears, were expecting plaudits and mutual back-slapping.
    As Wellington Commuter comments above, GWRC did manage to ensure a fair train drivers contract.
    Chairman Laidlaw pleads that it was so “awfully difficult” that the Council crumpled rather than work hard to do the right thing by drivers as promised. We all know what terms and conditions were at stake. They were the existing ones.
    But for sheer bumptiousness, Laidlaw’s ticking off of drivers for not being at work yesterday takes the prize. Leave entitlements, insufficient available drivers and sickness were the reason buses were cancelled.
    When the Service Medals and Orders of Merit are pinned to the breasts of our civic heroes next year, I will be interested to note whether someone from GWRC is brave enough to step up and receive the honours for services to local transport.