On the Picket Line

New Zealand bus drivers fight demands to cut overtime pay

By Terry Coggan
May 24, 2021

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Over 50 bus drivers in a 24-hour strike against NZ Bus staged a spirited picket outside its Kilbirnie depot here April 23. The company responded by locking workers out.

The drivers voted 204-2 at an April 14 meeting of their union, the New Zealand Tramways Union, Wellington Branch, to strike in protest against company demands to eliminate overtime pay.

The company is offering a pay raise of up to 4 New Zealand dollars an hour ($2.88), to NZ$23.75, but wants to cut overtime premiums, which include double pay for working after midnight and on Sundays, and time and a half on Saturdays. This would eliminate the pay raise and much more. Bosses also want to eliminate one week of drivers’ annual holidays.

Australian investment firm Next Capital bought NZ Bus in 2018. On its website Next Capital says, “We will typically take an equity position in a business that can generate value over three to five years,” and “the expectation is that returns of 25% per annum can be achieved for all stakeholders.”

“I love the job. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t,” Tearai Pureau, a driver for 18 years, told the Militant. “But we have the conditions we have because we fought for them for a long time. We don’t want to lose them.” Driver Ruth Baldwin told Stuff News she would lose NZ$7,000 per year if the overtime pay is eliminated.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff told picketing drivers the CTU is appealing to the public to contribute to a support fund. There is widespread sympathy for the drivers’ fight.

The pickets signed a greeting card sending solidarity to fellow bus drivers on strike in Manchester, England.

The Employment Court ruled that the company lockout was illegal April 24. Drivers went back to work as negotiations continue.

Terry Coggan, bus driver, member Tramways Union in Auckland