by Phil Duncan
Tomorrow (Thursday) bus passengers in Hamilton, riding Pavlovich Coachlines, will be travelling for free. Pavlovich currently operates the Orbiter and Huntly Connector lines as well as some school routes. The free rides come courtesy not of the company, but of thirty bus drivers who are taking industrial action against the employer not by withdrawing their labour but by simply not collecting any fares.
The drivers are members of FIRST Union. They have become frustrated with the company’s intransigence in relation to the drivers’ current pay claim and efforts to achieve secure conditions. FIRST organiser Tony Stevens says, “Pavlovich has given up on good faith. He won’t put through back pay for our members, he wants to add in 90-day trials, and he wants the drivers to agree to conditions that’ll disadvantage future union members.” He has also noted that the company won’t offer “any meaningful bereavement leave”.
The drivers, who have not received a pay rise in the last two years, are asking for just 39c an hour more from this very wealthy company. This increase would bring their pay to just $19 an hour. Current pay, says driver Mane Stanley, “doesn’t pay the bills, it doesn’t pay the rent, there’s a lot of people out there who cannot afford to live.” She pointed out that at times she may be working a shift such as starting at 5.50am and ending at 7pm, ie 11.5 hours. These kinds of shifts can more than five hours in the seat without a break.
He continues, “we’ve decided to hit the wealthy company where it hurts – their wallet. The last thing our drivers want to do is inconvenience the public, so that’s why they will still be operating the buses. The only difference is passengers will not be charged for the trip.”
The union is urging members of the public to ride the buses on Thursday.
This is a great form of industrial action because it hits the boss in the picket, which is where it hurts, while at the same time making it much easier to win public support. It also, in a modest way, points to an alternative for public transport – one based not on private profit but on providing the services people need for free.
So, if you’re in or anywhere near Hamilton tomorrow, do take Pavlovich’s buses.