Thursday, February 21, 2019

Their own fault

Another day, another employer whining about "worker shortages". This time, its Wellington's public transport operators, NZ Bus and Transdev:

Six Wellington train services have been scrapped indefinitely, while bus commuters can expect cancellations for at least the next six months as an "unprecedented" driver shortage continues to wreak havoc on the capital's public transport system.


Many of Tranzdev's drivers had left to join KiwiRail, which paid more and was expanding its operations, [Transdev chief operating officer Mike] Fenton said. It also gave drivers a change from driving electric trains.

Metlink spokeswoman Emily Liddell said Tranzdev expected to lose 12 per cent of its 100-plus drivers this year, up from its average annual turnover of 3.5 per cent.


Meanwhile, NZ Bus, which has been cancelling up to 30 buses a day in the morning peak in recent days, said it was 20 drivers short and was struggling to attract any applicants at all.

According to a Radio New Zealand report, NZ Bus wants the government to declare a skills shortage, allowing them to bring in foreign drivers. But once again, this "shortage" is a shortage at the price employers want to pay. Transdev pays less than KiwiRail (and less than Australian operators). NZBus lowballed their contract bid and took their profit margin out of their workers' wages - with the result that most of them simply left and those that remained went on strike. So its not really surprising that people no longer want to work for them. As for the solution, it seems obvious: better pay and conditions. But that might mean the operators make lower profits, so its apparently completely off the table, and instead they're asking for a regulatory subsidy.

As for how to force this, both companies now seem to be in breach of their contract, and unwilling to deliver the services they are contracted to provide. GWRC needs to make it clear to them that either they deliver those services or be replaced. They should not tolerate lowball operators destroying public infrastructure with low wages.