Bus drivers fight attack
By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — Bus drivers here are mounting a campaign to defend their jobs, wages and conditions in the face of a concerted attack by their employer, the ALP-run Brisbane City Council. Demands by the Coalition state government for 30% cuts in costs are endangering the future of the public bus system.
The dispute has been forced into the Industrial Relations Commission after talks between the council and the Public Transport Union broke down on September 17.
Council transport chairperson Maureen Hayes said on September 17 that under an existing contract with the state government, the council must achieve 30% efficiencies to ensure government funding and keep the bus service publicly owned.
Without the cuts, Brisbane Transport was "looking down the barrel of corporatisation", Hayes said.
PTU assistant secretary David Matters replied that the council was driving the reform agenda, which included bus drivers working guaranteed 80-hour fortnights and cutting two hours off penalty rates.
According to a brochure by the Bus Drivers' Defence Committee, "The state government's threat to force Brisbane City Council to privatise the council bus service, unless we cut a further $16 million from Brisbane Transport's operating costs, is nothing more than phoney scaremongering. Its purpose is to scare bus drivers into meekly accepting a savage attack on our rights to a decent standard of living."
"An ALP council should be on the side of workers and fighting against this attack on bus drivers' conditions — not going along with the National/Liberal government in an attempt to cut bus drivers' incomes and our families' living standards", the pamphlet concludes.
The pamphlet explains that the main attack proposed by the council is the introduction of casual drivers into the system. With casual labor, the council could "hire drivers for the morning peak and lay them off as soon as the peak is over ... Casual work will be the end of our union and it will be the end of our jobs if it gets a foothold", the pamphlet states.
"Our only defence is our union. Now as never before we need to be unified in our efforts to defend our jobs, our incomes and our living standards. We need now to prepare ourselves for a fight with the government and to call on the council to fight with us — not against us."