Wellington Scoop

Bus drivers’ union complains to police, Chris Laidlaw apologises

Report from RNZ
The bus drivers’ union has released documents showing how Tranzit worked with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to recruit people who were unemployed as drivers.

The roll out of new buses and bus routes in Wellington this week is continuing to be controversial with new drivers struggling to stick to the timetable. Some were late, cramped or not arriving at all.

The Ministry of Social Development has admitted it played an inappropriate role in helping secure contracts for those on the dole to get behind the wheel – while existing bus drivers were looking for work.

The Tramways Union made a complaint to the police about bus drivers in Wellington working up to 14-hour shifts. Police confirmed they received a complaint from Tramways yesterday and were looking into it.

Tramways Union Wellington secretary Kevin O’Sullivan said the union approached the regional council and Tranzit – who were awarded the contract for most of Wellington’s NZ Bus services – over the transition because about 120 employees were going to lose their jobs at Valley Flyer.

“A lot of those people want work and instead of talking to us about this transition to the new operator, [Tranzit] went to WINZ to get people who were unemployed to sign up,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “So now we’ve got the situation where a lot of people lost their jobs, some people did transfer but I have to say that the people that did transfer and take up work with Tranzit from Valley Flyer are on an inferior agreement.”

He told Morning Report that the union had been in talks with the council for at least the past two years to stop that from happening, but drivers were now facing cuts of up to $200 a week on average.

“Our members are now in the position of having to essentially subsidise the public transport in Wellington by taking a cut in their pay and conditions,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “Perhaps in the Hutt Valley not quite that amount because the Valley Flyer agreement was not the same as the Go Wellington agreement.”

However, he said the bigger problem members faced was the terms and conditions rather than the hourly pay rate.

“I have seen rosters where people sign on at 5.40am and finish at 7.20pm. Now that’s over 13 hours, that’s a breach of various legislation to protect public safety amongst other things.”

Greater Wellington City Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said the first he had heard of the alleged breach of conditions was this morning.

“If there is a breach of the requirements then the company will have to make sure that doesn’t happen again. But that’s a matter between them and the government. We let out the contract but didn’t specify hours.”

Mr Laidlaw said the set-up of the project was a “huge ask” and that problems with timetables, routes and real-time information were being dealt with “around the clock”.

However, there was little the council could do to help drivers in their pay except gain a better understanding for all parties, he said.

“We convened all of the parties in order to get some clarity as to what the differences were between New Zealand Bus pay rates and Tranzit pay rates….So we commissioned an independent expert who went through this with a fine tooth comb … presented the findings which showed that for the most part there were no differences in pay rates.”

The findings in the report which was leaked showed that a number of the junior drivers were paid more and others, who had been working there for longer period, would be paid slightly less, Mr Laidlaw said.

“$200 [pay cut] per week is, in my view, a fantasy”

However, Mr Laidlaw said the leaked report findings showed pay was not the issue.

Tranzit was finding it difficult to reach a resolution in an issue which was arising from “chronic shortage of drivers all around the country”, he said. He said a lot of the drivers had simply given up or returned to their home countries while taking redundancy or gone to Australia where there was potential for better pay.

While he said that most services were improved from the beginning of the week, he was not happy about the situation.

“We’ll get there in the end but this is a bumpy ride and I apologise to anybody who’s been disadvantaged by this … and they’re right to complain and we accept the complaints… All I can say is be patient.”

RNZ has approached Tranzit for comment.


  1. Stephanie Rodgers, 21. July 2018, 18:20

    Chris Laidlaw should be ashamed. Now saying Greater Wellington Regional Council won’t get involved in the dispute – but they were involved the minute they contracted bus services to the lowest bidder. (via twitter)

  2. Wendy Parsons, 21. July 2018, 21:19

    Yes all this could have been avoided if Chris Laidlaw had maintained wages and conditions as part of the Greater Wellington Regional Council contract, like the railway workers.

  3. Gary.Tram, 22. July 2018, 9:30

    Why are we putting up with apologies from Chair Laidlaw. Tranzit should be apologizing. They have had 9 months to get ready for this week. If they can’t perform they must relinquish the contract. GWRC should have been testing their readiness to start. No accountability. (Via twitter)

  4. Roy Kutel, 22. July 2018, 10:04

    Time to get rid of the GWRC and create a Public Transport Authority with people on the board who know something about running a transport business.

  5. Concerned Wellingtonian, 22. July 2018, 10:38

    With respect to Roy it is not just a question of knowing how to run a transport business. It is a question of knowing how to run any business. Common sense would be asking too much, I am afraid. GWRC have been too slapdash and happy to wash their hands of everything.

  6. Getout Conman, 22. July 2018, 13:19

    We are having posters printed which will be stuck on the back of buses at traffic lights. Very quick and efficient.

  7. Rumpole, 22. July 2018, 18:59

    Chris Laidlaw should pack his bags, call a taxi (keep the receipt for a refund) and head off into the sunset. Let the lawyers and union tidy up the mess.

  8. Trevor Mallard, 23. July 2018, 1:57

    Chris Laidlaw Paul Swain – you guys failed in your basic duty to protect low income workers. Time you got off your backsides, showed some integrity and sorted your mess out. (Via twitter)

  9. Campbell Barry, 23. July 2018, 1:58

    Chris Laidlaw’s attitude and response to the whole saga shows how out of touch he is with drivers and everyday commuters. Absolutely shocking. (Via twitter)

  10. Roy Kutel, 23. July 2018, 8:29

    Apparently 10/13 GWRC Councillors are gold card entitled so I doubt they’d use buses in the peak which would explain why they are so out of touch with commuters. They probably see their $60k a year as a ‘pension top-up’, pop in to the GWRC around elevenish for a social chat, and consider their $60k as far short of the amount they’d require to sort the mess out as Trevor Mallard tweets.