Wellington Scoop

Bus strike plans: picket lines and an alternative service


by Roy Murphy
Yesterday’s stopwork meeting of bus drivers not only voted to strike – it also made plans for the strike. The strikers will set up picket lines to prevent the companies from using their buses. At the same time they plan to set up their own alternative bus service for a gold coin donation in all areas affected by the strike. The money will be used to pay for the buses, with any extra going into the strike fund. The buses will run over the pre-July routes.

Tramways Union members voted overwhelmingly to strike following the breakdown of negotiations with Wellington bus operators. The strike is due to start on Tuesday 23 October, the day after Labour Day, and will continue until collective bargaining agreements are signed between the union and the bus operators.


The drivers voted 233 in favour of the strike, with 3 voting against.

The drivers voted that the first collective agreement settled will set the minimum level for bargaining with the rest of the bus companies. This motion underlines their determination to get a good deal and have it applied across all the region.

Union negotiator Graeme Clark said they were seeking a reasonable agreement based on the Go Wellington agreement reached unanimously in December 2017. They want a minimum of $22 an hour as well as all the other benefits such as overtime pay and holiday pay.

Clark detailed the stages of negotiation, saying that the companies either refused to negotiate or made lowball offers that could not be accepted.

The union wants a $2,000 signing bonus for each driver to be part of each agreement. This is to offset the costs, such as lost pay, incurred by being forced to go on strike. It is also demanding that all agreements expire on the same date.

Richard Wagstaff, president of the Council of Trade Unions opened the meeting by saying, “We have been looking with horror at the way you’ve been treated over the last couple of years. What a colossal mistake the Regional Council has made. They cannot treat drivers like they have no respect. We’re right behind you in making sure that you’re heard.”

Wellington mayor Justin Lester sent a message saying “my support for you is as strong as ever.”

“Ask what you can do for the union.”

Several drivers rose to support the motions and none spoke against. While the meeting was passionate, it was temperate but resolved. Some sample comments:

– We are the people who do the work and have a voice. We must stand together.
– Don’t ask what’s in it for me, ask what can you do for the union.
– We’ve got to stick together. If we don’t they’re going to crap all over us.

The well-known industrial lawyer who represents the union, Peter Crammey, sent a message of support saying, ‘This is one of the most important disputes in the last decade. It is a time of great ferment. What happens now will affect the next generation.”


  1. Traveller, 27. September 2018, 9:44

    So Justin Lester supports the drivers. Has he conveyed his views to Chris Laidlaw and the Regional Council? Does his council agree with him, and if so what have they been doing to try to resolve the problems of the last three months?

  2. Roy Kutel, 27. September 2018, 10:16

    236 drivers wanting $22/hr? Is that it? That’s $44k each a year in basic pay costing $10.4 million altogether. The GWRC has 500 staff getting $83k a year ($42/hr) which costs ratepayers $42 million and do they do four times more work than the bus drivers? Then there are the 13 GWRC Councillors who get at least $60k each and probably put in 40 hours ‘work’ a year so ‘earn’ a whopping $1,500/hr! Who do you think is worth paying?

  3. KRE, 27. September 2018, 11:05

    No matter how bad your day is, just be glad you are not being grilled like the Regional Council and MetLink at the select committee. The CE (who hasn’t come across badly) and Wayne Hastie might as well sit up there alone in front of the committee, Laidlaw offers absolutely nothing and Donaldson just interrupts her CE! [via twitter]

  4. Dave Armstrong, 27. September 2018, 11:17

    Hold on. Laidlaw’s mic is back on. Sounds good. He should do radio. The Lab/Nat line of questioning essentially asks the question: is the bustastrophe caused by a great PTOM system that’s been cocked up by useless management and planning, or is it caused by a flawed PTOM system that’s been cocked up by useless management and planning? GWRC is truly uniting the MPs of the region. [via twitter]

  5. Dave Armstrong, 27. September 2018, 11:20

    Here we are in Alice in Wonderland. Nats want more central govt intervention to fix up the hands-off model they introduced. Lab wants hands off from central govt but want the GWRC to be more hands-on to fix the hands-off model in which they operate. [via twitter]

  6. Diane Calvert, 27. September 2018, 12:25

    With the risk of being seen to take sides, PTOM is a red herring in this case. There are other fundamental issues that needed acknowledging & investigating. [via twitter]

  7. Gillybee, 27. September 2018, 15:05

    In a nutshell, the select committee process has exposed a colossal failure by our various taxpayer funded bodies to meet the needs of the public who principally fund and use the bus network.

    Thanks to the siloed thinking evident at the GWRC and the NZTA, Wellington commuters have fallen through the cracks. Public health, environmental impacts and ease of use for commuters were ignored in favour of ideologically-driven “change”.

    The failure is ongoing and characterised by wilful ignorance (lack of real-world testing), arrogance (a grudging willingness to listen) and dogma.

    Given that the public already fund 80% of public transport costs through rates and fares, how much more public money will be thrown at this to fix it?

    The drivers are right. The incompetence on display demonstrates that the GWRC shouldn’t be allowed to spend one more cent of our money. We need an independent transport body and/or an investigation set up asap.

  8. Dynomite, 27. September 2018, 20:02

    So the union obviously realize that no tranzit drivers want to join them or be represented by them, so now they are throwing their toys and threatening to blockade the depot to get their point across and save the poor tranzit drivers (who don’t want their representation) from their employer (who they don’t have a problem with). Sounds like a great plan, I’d love to see how it goes.

  9. aom, 28. September 2018, 7:16

    Dynomite sounds like an old time ‘scab’ who doesn’t understand the real world of worker exploitation. However, he is right in reference to “poor tranzit drivers” who are being used as fodder for the race to the bottom so companies can make a stunning return for the investors.

  10. Eric Blair, 28. September 2018, 8:28

    The bus drivers should coordinate with the primary school teachers to minimise disruption. If the bus drivers go on strike when the primary teachers do, there won’t be any school kids to bus to school. Perhaps GWRC could help both parties coordinate their industrial action?

  11. Roy Kutel, 28. September 2018, 9:52

    Where have all the GWRC Councillors gone? On holiday? I’ve seen no posts on Wellington.Scoop from any of them for a while. I guess ’emperor’ Chris has told them to be quiet. But aren’t they supposed to represent the people who voted for them, which must include bus users?

  12. Tony Jansen, 28. September 2018, 10:46

    Can we please convince Dave Armstrong to run for Mayor next term? My Wellingtonian of the year and the only person keeping me sane at the moment.
    My best wishes and full support to the bus drivers. When you compare how much the key players at GWRC earn, and what the bus drivers get for their hard work, how could anyone think that is a fair distribution of wealth. My fervent desire that the voters will remove all of the elected officials involved in this debacle at the next elections in 2019.

  13. Chris baxter, 28. September 2018, 20:11

    @Tony Jansen.. He would put Wellington in Deficit. God forbid

  14. Gary Froggatt, 29. September 2018, 11:37

    Dynomite is wrong. 160 Tranzit drivers have signed up with the Tramways Union and will join the fight for better pay and conditions. They also want to protest over 14 hour shifts and their employer’s anti-union stance.
    Tranzit prides itself as a so called family bus company. Why then did they sack a driver by phone, who had broken her ankle in the depot yard, just days before she was due to return to work from ACC?

  15. Dynomite, 30. September 2018, 20:13

    Gary Frogatt. That’s not correct at all. I don’t know where you get your info but it’s 100% false.

  16. Graham Atkinson, 5. October 2018, 15:06

    Gary Froggatt is partially correct because apparently the Tramways Union has kept all those staff made redundant by NZ Bus in June and July on the Branch books so, technically, they remain members although unfinancial. To say they have signed up to the Union is incorrect and a majority were unaware the Union continued to claim them as members. 29 Tranzurban drivers attended the stopwork meeting

  17. Bus Driver, 5. October 2018, 15:36

    All drivers who were made redundant and/or went to Tranzurban were made fully aware that they would still be union members and the person getting sacked was told this by a Hutt valley tranzurban driver

  18. aom, 5. October 2018, 18:38

    Graham Atkinson deserves a brownie point for reining in Dynomite and his extravagant but incorrect assertion. However, it is a bit disingenuous for Mr. Atkinson to then say the people who had previously signed up as union members were no longer members, presumably because they are employed by a firm that is demonstrably anti-union. It is immaterial whether they are financial members if the union still accepts their membership. It is obvious that they only cease to be members if they assertively cancel their membership.