Veolia strike goes ahead: TWU rejects offer

Bus drivers will go ahead with strike action in Brisbane tomorrow as Veolia’s increased pay offer was rejected late this afternoon

Veolia strike goes ahead: TWU rejects offer
Veolia strike goes ahead: TWU rejects offer

By David Goeldner | July 20, 2011

Veolia Transport’s Queensland bus drivers will strike tomorrow (Thursday July 21) after negotiations broke down late today after the Transport Workers Union rejected an increased offer of a 12.75 percent wage increase.

Veolia drivers will strike from 4am Thursday July 21 until close of services on Friday at 1.15am and again from 4am Friday until 8am.

A further meeting scheduled for Thursday hopes to avert further strike action planned for Friday.

Veolia’s Queensland Managing Director Colin Jennings says at this stage the strike action taking place on Friday morning between 4am and 8am could be avoided.

"The TWU is meeting with its membership at 10am on Thursday and we are hoping to meet with them again at Midday in an attempt to come to a resolution and avoid the strike action for Friday morning," Jennings says.

"The strike action may be avoided for Friday but we won’t know until late Thursday afternoon."

There are two bargaining agents involved in the negotiations, the Transport Workers Union and an independent group not aligned to a union.

These two agents represent Veolia’s driver’s pool based at Capalaba to Brisbane’s east.

The strike affects the Redlands area to Brisbane’s east servicing communities and several schools along southern Moreton Bay, and also includes 55 commuter services from the area into Brisbane’s CBD.

Jennings says this afternoon’s meeting raised the offer of a 12 percent pay increase over the next three years to 12.75 percent, which was already in excess of the transitional provisions provided for in the Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award (PVTA)

Veolia’s southern Queensland drivers have worked under an Enterprise Agreement which Jennings says needs to be ‘married together’ with the PVTA to come up with a reasonable wages and conditions agreement.

"Ultimately the discussions have broken down around the pay increase," Jennings says.

The TWU action led by Queensland Branch Secretary Peter Biagini and the unions’ bus organiser Bob Giddens has asked for a 15 percent increase over the next three years.

Jennings says the TWU’s rejection of Veolia’s pay increase offer was disappointing.

He says the Veolia offer is in excess of the respective awards and increases the gap between the PVTA and what is currently paid.

"Peter Biagini and Bob Giddens have been on Brisbane radio today saying bus drivers are paid too little, they believe that bus drivers should be paid significantly more and are using this as a means to try and increase the industry average for bus drivers," Jennings says.

"Veolia drivers are the highest paid of private bus operators in Queensland, second to Brisbane Transport," he says.

Jennings is confident that the impasse can be broken on Thursday, avoiding further strike action on Friday.

"If we don’t then we are back to negotiations on Friday and next week," he says.

"Hopefully there will be no more strike action, but negotiations will continue until we get agreement on wages and conditions for our drivers."

There is no move at this stage towards heading before Fair Work Australia for a judicial resolution.

"We are not at that point at the present time, there has been significant progress made and I think that the matter can be amicably resolved in the next few weeks between the parties without having to resort to Fair Work," Jennings says.

Jennings says he is disappointed with the actions of the TWU and offered apologies to passengers about to be affected by the strike action.

"We are very apologetic to our passengers and customers for the inconvenience, particularly parents with school age children who have to find other means to get their children to and from school tomorrow and Friday morning," he says.

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