by Don Franks
NZ Bus is offering Wellington bus drivers cash payments between $5000 and $10,000 each if they give up valuable benefits in their collective agreement, according to documents sent to drivers.
We live in a crazy world. Had a NZ bus boss verbally abused the drivers, called them the scourge of Wellington for their intransigence and said the lot of them deserved to be jailed, half the town would be in an uproar. Demeaning hurtful language, these days known as hate speech is increasingly unacceptable. Right now, parliament is working on laws to make it illegal. State enforced words against words out there that might hurt.
What this parliament and any other one like it will not be working on is legislation against hate economics. NZ Bus must hate their employees. Why else wield their corporate economic power to steal workers’ hard won job conditions? In making its offer, NZ Bus has but one aim, its own increased profitability.
Should their divisive wedge successfully split the drivers, the company’s bribe would be recouped well inside a year. The ongoing outlay to the workers whose labour power created the company’s value will remain diminished, further diminished from its already low level. The cynical bribe is calculated in the knowledge that it’s bloody hard to save $10,000 or even $500 on a bus driver’s pay. A dazzling once in a lifetime chance that would be silly to refuse is how the bosses hope their money offer will be viewed.
Whatever the drivers decide in this situation it should be realised that they make it under duress. Decisions made under economic pressure are not free choice. The one thing drivers have on their side is their unity, through their union organisation.
If their union meeting continues the drivers stand in defence of penal rates and other conditions they deserve the active support of all other workers, because bus drivers aren’t just doing this for themselves. In keeping their conditions they help keep up an expected standard benefitting the whole of the working class. Using individual bribes to undercut workers’ unity is an old employer’s trick. This economic bullying is often effective, and while capitalism exists it will probably remain perfectly legal. If our rulers had any consistency whatsoever, hate economics would be for the chop along with hate speech. Yes, names can hurt, but it’s the sticks and stones which break our bones.