Concern that the reopening of borders could trigger the exodus of bus drivers
Some Auckland Transport (AT) operators fear the reopening of borders could trigger an exodus of bus drivers, with migrant workers eager to return home to see their families – compounding an existing shortage.
AT spokesman Mark Hannan said many of its operators are already working on plans to deal with border changes, but shortages are unlikely to result in reduced services.
“They seek to organize leave allocations so that they are fair and responsive to their employees’ plans,” he said.
“The industry is working on a longer term plan that aims to improve the employment conditions of the workforce to attract and retain employees. “
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“There is a longer-term plan to improve conditions in the industry – many things are being looked at, not just wages or working hours.
“This is being worked on with operators, transport agencies and unions.”
Drivers could go six to nine months
Tribe recruitment agency co-founder James Brooke said his company was hired to boost recruitment and increase the number of bus drivers.
Because the workforce was often of Asian origin, he said anecdotal evidence and experience suggested that if drivers left when borders reopened, they would likely be gone for up to six to nine months.
First Union Auckland organizer Gem Pritchard said those predictions were exaggerated, and while he knew drivers were saving vacations to take trips, they would more likely last two to three weeks.
He said there was already a shortage of drivers in Wellington and Auckland due to privatization and the government’s bidding process known as the public transport operating model, which encourages a race to the bottom. for wages.
“The wages are so low, the levels of responsibility are literally overwhelming and they are controlled to the nth degree. They have cameras on them all day, they are at the mercy of the general public, ”said Pritchard.
The average bus driver made an hourly wage in the order of $ 20, he said, and drivers would often be pulled over in front of management if they were late.
“They can literally go off, take the road, drive a truck, and make $ 27, 30, 32 an hour driving trucks without any level of responsibility.”
The industry would have to pay significantly higher wages and do away with split shifts if it was to attract and retain drivers, Pritchard said.
Split shifts often require drivers to get up very early, with a five-hour break in the middle of the day, followed by a second shift during peak evening traffic hours.
The same exodus is not to be feared among rail operators.
KiwiRail said it had not interviewed its drivers, but had no reason to believe that significant numbers were planning to leave once the borders reopened.
The risk did not exist on Auckland’s rail networks either, according to operator Transdev.
“We have assessed the risk of migration of train workers once international borders reopened affecting our operations as low, both in Auckland and Wellington,” said a spokesperson for Transdev.
“Throughout the pandemic, we continued with our training programs as well as monitoring our train conductor and train manager numbers to maintain the levels we need to keep rail networks moving. “
Hannan said although operators may lose some drivers, this could be offset by an influx of volunteer workers.
“There is usually a constant flow of people moving to New Zealand looking for employment as drivers. “