On the Picket Line

New Zealand bus drivers walk out over pay, work schedules

By Janet Roth
May 7, 2018

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — “I worked 69 hours last week. Some worked more,” bus driver Elizabeth Kaulima told the Militant on a picket line here outside Pavlovich Coachlines April 19. “We’re working long hours to try and make ends meet. I can’t pay my bills on 40 hours work.”

Members of the First Union struck for two hours to press their fight against rock-bottom pay and bad conditions. Union membership at the company has been growing, Kaulima said, and this was their first action.

Auckland Transport controls all the public transport services throughout this city. Different bus companies compete to secure contracts to run each route, with bosses going after drivers’ pay and working conditions.

Pavlovich has won many of the contracts. “There’s a reason they have all the work, they pay bottom dollar,” First Union organizer Graham McKean told the media.

Rosters are often changed so drivers arrive at work not knowing what their hours will be. Their training includes a “fatigue management module,” which requires workers to ensure they aren’t too tired to drive. “But we’re obligated to do our rosters,” Kaulima said.

Tramways Union bus drivers working for NZ Bus joined in the 30-worker-strong picket. They’re fighting for a better contract as well. Over the previous two days they held two-hour strikes at different depots.