OPERATOR ‘DISAPPOINTED’ BUS DRIVERS “BLOCKED”, “PRESSURISED”

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: ABC archives


AS UNION STRIKE ACTION over ‘two-tiered’ bus driver pay and conditions continues in Sydney today, Region 3 and 6 operator Transit Systems says it’s disappointed, “…some bus drivers [were] blocked from leaving the depot, particularly for those who are unwilling to take part in the industrial action,” it outlines.

OPERATOR ‘DISAPPOINTED’ BUS DRIVERS “BLOCKED”, “PRESSURISED”
“We aren’t asking for the world here – just that if you work for the same employer, doing the same job, you should receive the same pay and conditions," said TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen.

Around 300 bus drivers in South West Sydney are striking for 24 hours today, following around 1,200 drivers in the Inner West walking off the job for 24 hours on Monday over the ‘same-job, same-pay’ issue, the Transport Workers Union NSW branch explains. 

Today’s strike by bus drivers at the Smithfield and West Hoxton depots in Region 3 will affect routes in the Liverpool, Fairfield and Cumberland LGAs, which normally carry around 40,000 passengers daily, it explains. 

TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen says the problem of unequal pay was caused by the State Government’s bus privatisation agenda, and that it was incumbent on the Government to come up with a solution. 

"Bus drivers have gone on strike over the last two days to send a clear message to the Transport Minister Rob Stokes: ‘they won’t cop this two-tiered pay system any longer’," Olsen said. 

"We understand the inconvenience this may cause some members of the public, and it’s not a decision the drivers take lightly, but we are confident the community will understand drivers have been left with no other option to have their voices heard." 

"We aren’t asking for the world here – just that if you work for the same employer, doing the same job, you should receive the same pay and conditions." 

"Now is the time for the State Government and the operator Transit Systems to come to the table, and put an end to this unfair two-tiered workforce," Olsen explained. 

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LOWER PAY 

As a result of the NSW Government’s privatisation of Sydney’s buses, all drivers in Region 3 and newer drivers in Region 6 are employed on significantly lower pay and conditions than the former State Transit drivers in Region 6 – despite all working for the same operator, Transit Systems, the union explains. 

It continues: as Transit Systems [refuses] to negotiate a new agreement with drivers, the company is pocketing around $30,000 in taxpayer money every week intended to provide pay rises to drivers. Under the Sydney Metropolitan Bus Service Contract, the salaries and wages component of the contract is increased annually in line with the latest ABS quarterly index for the wage price index in the transport, postal and warehousing industry - the most recent figure being an annual increase of approximately 2 per cent for the September quarter, the TWU NSW outlines. 

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BLOCKED, PRESSURED 

When ABC magazine sought an updated response to the situation from Transit Systems, a spokesperson responded: 

 "We are disappointed to see some bus drivers blocked from leaving the depot, particularly for those who are unwilling to take part in the industrial action today." 

"Once again, the unions are placing their members who are not supporting the action and other drivers under unnecessary pressure, in addition to confusing the community." 

It continued by reiterating previous public statements issued December 6 that: "We have undertaken nine separate negotiation meetings, of which the TWU attended only one and the RTBU attended just four." 

"We have listened and communicated extensively with our employees including regular twice weekly Q&A updates, informative videos, and an internal briefing on the proposed Enterprise Agreement for all employees, which included 60 minutes of paid time to those who viewed the session. 

"We will continue to work with our employees and look forward to reaching a positive outcome," he said.

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