Bus drivers' holiday pay win may apply to others

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 05/10/2012

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An employment case victory by two Wairarapa school bus drivers could mean other school workers nationwide are in for a pay rise.

Earlier this year the Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union asked the Employment Relations Authority to determine whether drivers were entitled to be paid for public holidays that fell outside school terms.

The matter was referred to the Labour Department, which ruled that the drivers were on annual leave and therefore entitled to the payment in addition to the 8 per cent of their yearly earnings that their employer Tranzit Coachlines paid them in December.

But Tranzit, which employs a large number of drivers across the country, challenged the decision with the authority, regarding the contracts of union members Paul Morgan and Mei Wilson.

In the authority hearing, Tranzit argued the drivers were not entitled to annual leave in December because they had not completed a full 12 months' continued employment as there was little work outside school terms.

But the drivers and the union said they were available to work all year and whether they had to work continuously was irrelevant.

Authority member Paul Stapp agreed with the drivers' case, saying their terms of employment were continuous and there remained an obligation to work at all times if required.

There were no provisions in the employment contract for split periods of employment, so general Holiday Act provisions applied and the drivers were entitled to extra payment for public holidays.

Union secretary Graeme Clarke said the argument that the drivers were not entitled to the public holidays because they had not worked a full year was ridiculous.

The decision could have implications for other workers who were in a similar situation, he said.

New Zealand Educational Institute legal services director John Robson said he was aware of the decision and would be exploring whether it had implications for any of its members.

Teachers were paid an annual salary that included term breaks but other professions, such as librarians, could be in a similar situation. Their collective contracts usually had provisions to address the problem, however.

"We will be looking at it [the decision] with some interest but we'd like to think the issue of public holidays is covered under the Holidays Act or our collective agreements."

Mr Clarke said he expected Tranzit to appeal as the decision would cost it a reasonable amount of money. "It's not as much money as the caregivers but it's still quite a significant issue and it may affect other people as well."

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Tranzit spokeswoman Jenna Snelgrove said the company was considering the decision and seeking advice.

She would not provide details about how many drivers Tranzit employed.

- The Dominion Post

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