I am thrilled that Waikato Regional Council has voted to allocate a Christmas bonus totalling $200,000 for bus drivers. This amounts to about $1000 for a full-time worker and recognises the job they have done through COVID-19 lockdowns in the region. There’s also good news for SuperGold Cardholders, who will have their free travel extended to include peak service times from 1 March 2022.
The recommendations were among a number made by the Regional Connections Committee, who last month heard from Living Wage Aotearoa and First Union, which represents bus drivers.
As a member of the Regional Connections Committee, Thame Coromandel representative on the Regional Council Denis Tegg said: “Our council has worked hard to ensure we are doing the right thing by our bus drivers, including those operating the Thames Connector. “
“They’re the public face of our services and have continued right through COVID-19 lockdowns and changing requirements over the last 18 months or more.”
“We already have an ageing population in Thames Coromandel where one-third of the population is aged over 65. These changes mean our SuperGold Card holders can travel for free at any time on any bus. It will give older generations unable to drive the greater flexibility they need to get from A to B and as a result, I expect we’ll see an increase in patronage,” Cr Tegg said.
During the final full council meeting of 2021 on Thursday, 9 December, regional councillors voted to enter into an agreement with Go Bus to enable a voluntary one-off payment of $200,000. This will be distributed as a bonus for existing bus drivers and cleaners to acknowledge the value of the workforce and the gap between wages paid and the living wage between 1 September 2020 and 31 August 2021.
Councillors also voted in favour of a variation to existing bus contracts which would enable the payment of $22.75 per hour for public transport workers, backdated to 1 September 2021.
The cost of doing so will be funded by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (51 per cent) and Waikato Regional Council (49 per cent).
Waikato Regional Council also agreed to lobby the appropriate agencies for living wage indexation from 2022 onwards.