COVID-19: First Union calls for security guards on buses to enforce mask mandate

First Union is calling for security guards to be placed on all buses to enforce the Government's mask mandate and create more jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday Jacinda Ardern announced face coverings would become mandatory on all public transport and for ride-sharing under alert levels 2, 3 and 4.

First Union's secretary for transport, logistics and manufacturing Jared Abbott says bus drivers are thankful for the change, which will come into force from Monday, August 31.

"I think most of them are actually quite pleased that there are now requirements for passengers to wear masks," he said.

"These bus drivers are exceptionally vulnerable to catching COVID and unlike passengers, they can't just step out of the bus."

However, he says there is growing concern about bus drivers being responsible for enforcing the rules and trying to manage uncooperative passengers.

"The bus driver's responsibility is to ensure the bus is driven safely...They aren't trained as security guards, they are not equipped to do that."

He also pointed out that many bus drivers aren't highly paid.

"If they are expected to do all of these different jobs for that kind of money it's just not realistic."

He says bus drivers "simply can't" enforce the rule.

"In reality, all they can do is ask people to wear a mask or point people towards whatever guidance and posters there are. There's not a lot more they can do."

Abbott is calling for the Government to employ security guards for every bus instead.

"[It would be] similar to how you have train managers on trains. Essentially, have a manager that is a security guard that is ensuring when passengers are hopping on they are complying with the social distancing, complying with the PPE like face masks and also the contact tracing."

He says it will not only help bus drivers but will provide work opportunities to those left unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are at a time where we are expecting to have up to 10 percent unemployment in this country… We think it would be a good opportunity to extend that out and provide a few jobs somewhere where it's needed and keep our public transport safe."

He says security on buses is "well overdue anyways".

"We did a survey a couple of years ago where 50 percent of drivers said, in their careers, they had either been physically or verbally assaulted by passengers."

Jacinda Ardern said on Monday the decision to make face coverings mandatory was made after three confirmed cases recently used public transport.

"This isn't a decision we took lightly, but we know masks protect you and the people around you. They limit the chance of COVID-19 spreading in places that it is often harder to distance yourself to trace people," Ardern said.

"We have seen some cases now where people have become unwell from a bus journey so this is a common-sense approach to public health."