Drivers give it back to the boss

- Nick Kelly

Bruce Emson, CEO of NZ Bus, did his “travelling road show” at the Kilbirnie depot last Monday. His mission was to tell us drivers his vision for “our” company, but also to get feedback from the people who are on the ground.

So midway through his bullshit company presentation Bruce goes, “Look, I’m sick of talking, I want to know if this a good place to work at the moment.” To which the drivers and workshop workers replied with a resounding “NO!”.

A bit taken aback, Bruce then replied, “Oh, OK, well actually I knew that already. So guys, tell me what’s wrong with this job.”

Nick: “The poverty wages you pay.”

Bruce: “Well, I agree the money is a bit low, but we are currently in negotiation with the union about that.”

Nick: “Your managers walked out of the negotiations last Thursday!”

Bruce: “Well I can tell you that they didn’t walk out of any negotiations, and Zane sitting next to you (Southern regional manager for NZ Bus) is on those negotiations.”

Nick: “Look, I was there and I saw Zane and his crew walk out of the talks.”

Zane: “There will be more talks on the 30th.”

A bunch of other drivers jumped in and suggested that the high turnover of drivers is due to “poverty wages” paid by the company - a claim denied by Bruce.

Another mentioned that the 2007 shift changes resulted in a significant drop in drivers’ income: again Bruce was in denial.

One guy from the workshop asked Bruce if he was paid $12.72 an hour. On confirming that he wasn’t, the driver then yelled, “Well, why the hell do you expect us to live on that for driving a bus?”. Asked if he had ever driven a bus, Bruce claimed he had, but only for 10 minutes.

Another driver asked what NZ Bus made in profit each year. Bruce claimed the company “wasn’t all that profitable at the moment and we are really going to have to work hard to turn that around.” The same driver than retorted, “The Dominion claimed you guys made $21 million last year, what are you on about?” - to which Bruce mumbled something about “creative accounting”.

Getting frustrated, Bruce, having earlier said he wanted feedback, then says, “Look, would you guys like to do the presentation yourselves - if not, can I get on with it.”

I had to leave the meeting early to make another appointment, but apparently Bruce continued to face tough questions from drivers about pay and conditions. Bet he was glad to fly back to head office in Auckland after the meeting.

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