Bus drivers locked out after saying they won't collect fares

bus driver
Employer Go Bus says they're a health and safety threat to non-union drivers. Photo credit: Getty

More than 100 Waikato bus drivers will be locked out without pay for two weeks from today, after threatening to give passengers free rides.

Employer Go Bus says they're a health and safety threat to non-union drivers, who'll be subjected to "verbal abuse and physical assault" if they charge passengers.

FIRST Union members said on Friday they'd not collect fares in protest against "abysmal" wages. They want at least $20.55 - the Living Wage - but are paid a few dollars less than that.

Council of Trade Unions Māori vice president Syd Keepa says one iwi that owns Go Bus is a Living Wage employer.

"You would think they'd try and carry that onto the business that they are involved in," he told Newshub. "A lot of those drivers, they do whakapapa to those iwi."

Instead, locked-out drivers will get nothing while they're locked out.

"Go Bus is contracted to provide bus services in the region and collecting fares is part of that contract, therefore we must act," Go Bus chief operating officer Nigel Piper said on Sunday.

He says Go Bus supports the Living Wage, but can't afford to pay it.

"This is a financial decision that must involve councils and the NZ Transport Agency who collectively fund our services and set the passenger fares."

As for putting passengers at risk, Mr Keepa says drivers' families are at risk if they don't get a payrise.

"When you're looking at the rates they're paying now, to me it would be pretty hard if you're the only one that's working to keep up with living costs."

He says Go Bus has ordered the lockout "without any negotiations whatsoever", but Mr Piper says it's successfully negotiated four collective agreements with different unions in the past 20 months.

"[The union] wants to cause as much disruption as possible to bus users, and now the council of our region, as well as to Go Bus."

Paying the Living Wage would give bus drivers a 16.2 percent raise on top of a 6.7 percent raise they got earlier this year, the company says. That would put drivers' current wages at $17.69 an hour - $2.19 above the minimum wage.

Go Bus and the FIRST Union have been at loggerheads for more than a year.

A new bus schedule has been made to accommodate the missing drivers, which can be found on busit.co.nz.