THE NSW STATE GOVERNMENT must, “…take responsibility for wages and conditions throughout the contracts it awards to private bus companies,” and these should be, “…awarded on decent, secure jobs and safe conditions, not low cost,” according to the Transport Workers Union NSW Branch (TWU), recently.
The union’s branch delegates from several bus companies today voted to endorse a plan that includes a readiness to take industrial action to improve pay, superannuation and safety, it announced.
Included in the bus drivers’ claim are provisions such as: realistic timetables so drivers aren’t forced to rush; working hours to manage fatigue; and strong safety committees.
TWU NSW Branch secretary Richard Olsen led the vote from the bus delegates at the union’s Minchinbury, NSW, office earlier today, stating the plan is about ‘lifting standards to ensure fairness and keep bus drivers, passengers and other road users safe’.
“Bus drivers provide an essential service to our communities. Over the last year while most of us isolated, bus drivers risked their own health to get passengers to supermarkets, covid testing clinics and now vaccination centres,” Olsen said.
“As our economy recovers, it does so off the backs of bus drivers getting people to work and kids to school.
“The NSW Government relies on these jobs and bus drivers take pride in doing them.
“Of course, any industrial action can cause major disruption, but when bus drivers are under pressure to run to tight schedules and companies say they can’t afford to pay drivers fair wages or provide safe conditions, there is only one solution.
“Today we will set in motion a plan that will put pressure on the NSW Government to take responsibility for safety and fairness throughout the bus industry,” Olsen said.
According to TWU, citing the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport, 113 people have been killed in bus crashes in Australia in the past five years.
Bus drivers are frequently subjected to attacks by passengers and members of the public, it explains.
Last year, a TWU member was deliberately coughed on by a passenger who said he had coronavirus after he couldn’t pay the fare, it outlined.
The TWU NSW branch successfully campaigned for spit screens to be installed in buses following this and other reports of passengers spitting on drivers during the pandemic, it says.
According to a 2019 TWU NSW bus survey:
– 84 per cent of drivers face verbal abuse from passengers;
– 81 per cent [are] experiencing verbal abuse daily;
– 74 per cent of drivers have faced regular abuse when enforcing Opal card rules.
ABC magazine (www.busnews.com) contacted NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s office and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) for a response.
A TfNSW spokesperson responded: “Transport for NSW acknowledges the important role of front line transport workers in delivering services to customers and communities across NSW.”
“Negotiations on Enterprise Agreements are a matter between the union and the operator.
“There are established safety requirements for the operation and delivery of bus services, and we expect these to be complied with.
“We encourage all parties to work together constructively and we will be monitoring any negotiations closely.”
Photography: courtesy TWU NSW Branch