Wellington bus drivers hail proposed living wage deal

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Wellington bus drivers earning less than the Living Wage would have their pay bumped up to match it under a proposed deal.

Largely empty buses on Wellington's Lambton Quay on the first day of level 3, 28 April

Lots of people are leaving the bus industry in the capital, the union says. Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

Negotiations are ongoing between bus operators in the region, the regional council and the union. The proposed deal would see the base rate for drivers increase from $19.40 up to $22.10 per hour.

The base rate deal would increase pay for more than 300 drivers, about half of those in Wellington region, to meet the living wage.

“It’s absolutely significant,” said Tramways Union secretary Kevin O’Sullivan.

He said it was the best news for drivers and for the network since changes were made to the network two years ago.

The change saw the regional council contract a number of operators to run the buses instead, but it caused a raft of delays, cancellations, and overcrowding.

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“I think it’s also an acknowledgement that that model hasn’t really worked very well, and change is needed to be made, so this is the first step in just improving the whole industry.”

There are still some finer details to be worked out, such as weekend rates and night rates, and the company has gone back to cost those. Another meeting to finalise those is set for next week, with the plan to roll out the living wage for NZ Bus drivers by 19 April.

“We want all our drivers to have pride in what they do and a part of that is rewarding and recognising people appropriately,” Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said.

“This move, quite rightly, focuses on bus drivers and the essential part they play in keeping our region moving every day. We are incredibly lucky to have some of the most amazing and committed people working across the Metlink network.”

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“It’ll be for all operators eventually, and it will be across the board – it will be the base rate for any collective agreements.”

O’Sullivan said it would also address chronic staff shortages.

“Lots of people are leaving the industry, and it will help address a lot of issues apart from take-home pay.”

How much it will cost and exactly where the money will come from is still to be finalised but will be split between Waka Kotahi Transport Agency and the Regional Council.

There have been disruptions to several Wellington city services today as members attended the union meeting in the suburb of Kilbirnie.

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