Disruptions likely for rail commuters as workers plan strike
Wellington rail commuters are in for a day of disruptions as an employment stoush between industry workers and network operator TransDev heads towards a strike.
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) is expected to stage a stop-work meeting between 11am and 1pm on October 4, following a vote on Friday.
But TransDev says if the strike goes ahead, disruptions would stretch well beyond that, as no trains scheduled to return after 11am would leave Wellington that morning.
The disagreement is over workers' terms and conditions, which are up for negotiation just over a year after French-based TransDev, along with manufacturing company Hyundai Rotem, took control of the network.
RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson said the union tried to schedule the strike at a time which would cause minimal disruption.
"We've gone out of our way to ensure there's no inconvenience for commuters.
"People will be able to get to work in the morning, and they'll be able to get home in the afternoon."
But TransDev manager of people and culture David Gould said he was disappointed a strike was being discussed.
While it would not affect peak-time commutes, it would impact on the elderly and other passengers, he said.
"We think it's imperative, whenever it's in our control, to run according to the timetable.
"It is a disruption, and we've been at pains for three to four months to reach an agreement that would avoid that."
The company would start cancelling trains shortly after 9am, and services would be affected until after 1pm, he said.
Buses would replace trains so commuters had an alternative transport option.
Butson said the union's members were not satisfied with TransDev's revised terms and conditions, notably the reduction of penal rates for weekend and night shifts, and a requirement to work public holidays if requested.
He expected the strike to go ahead.
"My expectation is the vote will be overwhelmingly carried because our members are very angry a French multinational is coming in and trying to rip terms and conditions off them."
Gould said the company was "scratching their heads" at the stand-off, and noted penal rates only applied to about 40 maintenance workers.
There were just two regular Saturday workers and fewer on Sundays, he said.
"There's very little work being done in the weekends because it's too expensive [to pay staff].
"Reducing those rates would actually give more incentive for the company to roster a full shift of 8 to 10 people, which would increase maintenance work and increase the annual income of workers."
TransDev had also proposed a 1.3 per cent overall wage increase in line with inflation, and agreed in principle to a weekly laundry allowance for uniformed staff, a $2 an hour increase for tutors, and tenure-based wage increases.
Butson said any profits made from the changes would "end up in Paris", but Gould said part of any increased revenue would go towards negotiating future wage increases beyond inflation.