The Guardian May 16, 2001


Striking drivers take buses off the road

Two thousand exasperated drivers employed by 60 private bus companies in 
Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle held a one-day strike last week. The 
strike followed a breakdown in discussions between the drivers and the 
employer representative group, the Bus and Coach Industrial Association 
(BCA).

Discussions on issues of pay and operational safety had been proceeding for 
three months.

Drivers have long complained about attacks, both verbal and physical, on 
certain routes, and have pointed out that nothing has been done about them, 
even when the incidents have been captured on security video cameras.

Drivers have described attacks with screwdrivers, bricks, tyres and ball 
bearings. One driver commented that he had been robbed and had suffered 
broken ribs and facial injuries.

The drivers are demanding that extra precautions be taken to ensure their 
safety on certain routes, and that outstanding matters of pay be addressed 
by the bus companies.

On Monday last week the BCA presented an ultimatum, which included a 3.5 
percent pay increase, to the drivers' union, the Transport Workers' Union.

The union rejected it, as they claim that the drivers are entitled to a 
minimum increase of five percent. They also pointed out that the issue of 
driver safety was still unresolved.

The BCA then announced on Tuesday that it would no longer participate in 
negotiations, and the drivers took industrial action the following day.

On Thursday, in a statement which sounded remarkably like that of an 
employer, the Industrial Relations Commission condemned the strike, 
declaring that the 2000 drivers had "wasted their time, lost a day's pay 
and inconvenienced the public."

The Commission was, however, unable to order the drivers to return to work 
as the strike was by then over. It is understood that the employers are now 
likely to return to the negotiating table.

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