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Ritchies drivers in Auckland join bus strikes

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Around 70 Ritchies Murphy drivers are to strike tomorrow morning as disputes over work and pay conditions roll to a stop.

This follows strike action from members at multiple Go Bus and Pavlovich depots.

Ritchies Murphy Transport is an affiliate company of Ritchies Transport who has previously requested to bring in 200 migrant workers due to claims there’s a worker shortage which is incorrect. Drivers at Richie’s companies have unacceptable work conditions so do not attract drivers.

Further to this, we can now reveal Ritchies Transport as having the worst rate of bus crashes in Auckland for the number of buses on the road.

Data obtained by FIRST Union through an Official Information Act request shows Go Bus and Ritchies have substantially more accidents than other bus companies, prompting calls from FIRST Union for the Government to remind Auckland Transport and NZTA of its responsibilities in ensuring bus companies have driver and passenger safety at the forefront of the tender selection process.

Data obtained by FIRST Union through an Official Information Act request shows that between 2015 and 2017 Go Bus and Ritchies had substantially more crashes than other bus companies. Go Bus, with its 95 buses for example only made up 6.97% of buses in Auckland, but accounted for 15.09% of accidents. This is in contrast to Howick and Eastern which has more buses on the road, a total of 151 or 11.08% of vehicles but has fewer crashes, making up 2.11% of total accidents. For a second and more alarming example, Ritchies Transport makes up for 260 buses, or 19.08%, but accounts for a whopping 48.07% of accidents.

FIRST Union Organiser Graham McKean says the higher crash rates are coupled with a raft of complaints from driver members, and follow a series of rolling strikes, with more to come.

"The figures are no surprise, we know these companies all operate in largely the same regions, and the only altered variable is the company itself. When we match these figures with complaints from members we have considerable reason to believe the substantially higher crash rates of Ritchies and Go Bus are due to poor worker conditions."

The complaints from our members include;

- Being pushed to work over the maximum drive time of 5 ½ hours. We have already published evidence from a separate OIA showing Go Bus regularly breaking this rule.

- Rostering. Many drivers are working broken or split shifts. Splits shifts can be up to 14 hours but drivers are only paid for eight hours due to the way bus runs are structured. Breaks are also an issue with some drivers being expected to work 5 ½ hours without a break, and these drivers do not receive a paid tea breaks - this is the only industry in New Zealand that allows for such unsafe practices that can lead to dreadful outcomes. Further, this amount of time away from home negatively affects families and the communities they’re situated within.

- Companies are continuing to clamp down on pay rates, overtime, and redundancy.

Mr McKean says Ritchies Murphy Transport is paying its drivers two-dollars less than most other Auckland companies. He says it’s clear driver welfare comes secondary to company profits.

"I think it’s safe to say worker welfare has been thrown in the back seat and we now have concerns for commuter safety."

He says if the company wants workers it needs to provide acceptable work conditions and pay to attract them.

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