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.”
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.”