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Auckland bus drivers seek solutions for crisis on city buses

Auckland bus drivers are calling for urgent and immediate intervention from Auckland Transport, bus operators and Auckland Council before a driver is killed in their place of work.

This call follows the stabbing of a bus driver and a passenger on city services in less than two weeks.

“Workplace safety for bus drivers has reached a crisis point,” said New Zealand Council of Trade Unions National Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges. 

“There’s no more time for discussion. Auckland Transport and bus operators need to intervene immediately to make bus drivers in Auckland safe at work or the services should not go ahead,” said Hayley Courtney, FIRST Union organiser.

Courtney said FIRST Union members in Auckland had specified three priorities that would immediately assist with the current crisis ahead of future Fair Pay Agreement negotiations, where minimum health and safety standards could be coordinated nationally and enshrined in law.

“Right now – as in immediately – drivers want to see increased security at repeat problem spots around the city and have highlighted the CityLink service around central Auckland as their biggest concern,” said Courtney.

“Drivers have been instructed not to intervene when passengers refuse to use their Hop cards to board, and as a result, problem passengers can follow them around the city and cause problems for other riders.”

“Bus operators also need to coordinate with Auckland Transport to increase supervisory security on buses in the short-term.”

“Finally, drivers need more investment into the recent trial of protective cabins, which some of them have found underwhelming and under-delivered in its current form, for a variety of reasons.”

“No one should be going to work and fearing for their lives every day.”

Tramways Union President Gary Froggatt said these issues were feeding into the bus driver shortage.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. And issues of safety get exacerbated with driver shortages –  services being cancelled makes people angry and they take it out on their driver. It’s a catch-22 for the industry right now.”

Courtney said FIRST Union and Tramways members were currently meeting to discuss their industrial options, but drivers were concerned for their safety and in general, furious.

One driver, who wished to remain anonymous due to the terms of their employment, said the bus driver shortage should be no surprise.

“You get spat on, verbally assaulted, pushed around, and then one day… who knows,” said the driver.

“People need training and investment to stay in this job. Even with wages getting higher, it’s demanding, and you can get paid more to drive a truck.

“We want people to thank the driver when they leave the bus, not curse us. This is not what the job should be.”