Today bus drivers in Wellington are going on strike. How did this come about? The problem originates in the fact that two years ago a private equity firm named Next Capital Investments (NCI) bought Wellington’s bus service, NZ Bus. A year ago pay negotiations with the 280 people who drive the buses became deadlocked. Things have reached the point where the drivers’ collective agreement has expired. An offer from the Greater Wellington Regional Council to NCI to bring the drivers wages up from a base rate of $19.40 an hour to the level of the so-called Living Wage ($22.10) was rejected. Rather, the company wants to press ahead with plans to cut wages and conditions. For example, moving the Wellington drivers to a collective agreement similar to its Auckland drivers, which has a higher base rate but lower penal rates and one week less annual leave. With this as a background, on April 14th angry Tramways Union members voted 204-2 in a secret ballot to take today’s action.
The wider contemporary environment is one where Labour and National politicians have created a framework (through legislation such as the Employment Relations Act) that makes it difficult for workers to mount effective legal action against the boss class. So while the drivers’ action is a severely limited and defensive one, in this context it should be supported. It highlights the basic and powerful reality that it is the labour of working people that make this society function. Nothing can move unless we collectively make it happen and a small minority of self-appointed dictators such as the private owners of NCI are incapable of stopping this.
The Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) is a small organisation with limited resources but as our name suggests, we wish to extend our solidarity and moral support to our fellow workers among the Wellington bus drivers. We call on all those who sell their labour in this society to use whatever creative means you can to also offer support to them. Victory to the Drivers! An Injury to One is an Injury to All!