By Justin Randell
PERTH — On March 21, Metrobus drivers here refused to collect fares in protest against the Court government's unfair treatment of the public carrier in the competitive tendering process for the metropolitan bus service.
Recently discovered 1995 State Treasury documents confirm that the tendering process is just part of the Liberal government's drive to sell off public transport. One document is a request from private companies bidding for Metrobus' bus routes that the government accept changes to the process which will favour the private bids. The government agreed to do so.
Another document reveals State Treasury's refusal to consider the disadvantages of the evaluation process to Metrobus. Private companies can get tax concessions on depreciation of assets which Metrobus doesn't receive. Furthermore, workers employed by private operators receive superannuation payments of only 5%, while Metrobus pays 12.5%.
The government has rejected a Public Transport Union request to have a Trades and Labour Council representative on the tenders evaluation panel, which currently consists of seven Liberal government employees.
The March 21 action ended when the Industrial Relations Commission ordered drivers to collect fares for the evening peak hour period, but also ruled that the PTU had the right to inspect the documents, permission previously denied to it.
Despite the government's rhetoric about the efficiency and service gains this privatisation will achieve, Australian Services Union organiser Tony Hey said that the tendering process would cost WA taxpayers millions of dollars. ASU members say they will stop buses if the tenderers' costings are not revealed by March 31.