On the Picket Line

‘We’re working for peanuts,’ says striking bus driver in New Zealand

By Felicity Coggan
November 19, 2018

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Bus drivers here and in Hamilton, members of First Union, went on strike Oct. 23, the latest in a series of walkouts over pay and conditions at bus companies nationwide.

“We’re working for peanuts, it’s modern day slavery,” said Jonoz, a driver for Pavlovich Coachlines. He was one of 45 drivers picketing the Manukau Transport Centre here during a one-day strike by drivers from Pavlovich and Ritchies Murphy bus companies.

The contract with Pavlovich expired a year ago, while at Ritchies Murphy the union has been trying to get a contract for two years.

Striker Kevin Clough told Radio New Zealand that drivers at other Auckland bus companies were earning 1.50 New Zealand dollars ($1) an hour more than those at Ritchies Murphy.

Bus companies here compete to win contracts with the Auckland Transport agency to operate routes, squeezing pay and conditions to lower their bids. The union is demanding a “Fair Pay Agreement” to enforce minimum nationwide standards.

Split shifts — a 14-hour day with an unpaid gap in the middle — are common. “I did that for six years,” said Jonoz. “They say that time is yours, but it’s not. They should be paying us for those hours.”