Striking Adelaide bus drivers demand safety, pay rise

Commuters across Adelaide are facing “major disruption” today as hundreds of bus drivers walk off the job in a bid to improve their pay and conditions.

Jan 09, 2023, updated Jan 09, 2023
Adelaide Metro buses in the CBD. Photo: InDaily

Adelaide Metro buses in the CBD. Photo: InDaily

Members of the Transport Workers Union this morning gathered at the Torrens Transit north-eastern bus depot in St Agnes as part of a 24-hour work stoppage, ahead of a meeting between the union and the company on Tuesday to resume negotiations on a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport has warned there will be “major disruption” to metropolitan bus services today and is encouraging commuters to find alternative transport options or work from home.

The 24-hour work stoppage commenced at 3am today.

The union, which says it has more than 700 members working for Torrens Transit in a company workforce of more than 1000 people, is asking the employer to pay bus drivers more than $32 per hour.

According to Torrens Transit, the current hourly rate is $28.58, although the TWU has claimed the average wage for some drivers is as low as $25.70 per hour.

Torrens Transit says it has already offered a “first year wage increase of 5.75 per cent”.

“We believe we are offering above market rates and conditions for our staff,” a company spokesperson said last week.

The union is also seeking changes to the company’s rostering system whereby, according to the TWU, a bus driver can be rostered for more than 12.5 hours but only paid for six to seven hours due to a lengthy break in between.

The TWU also today released the results of a survey that polled more than 350 Torrens Transit bus drivers on safety.

The survey states that 49 per cent of the polled workers have been physically abused at work and 91 per cent have been verbally abused.

TWU SA branch secretary Ian Smith said today: “For many of our drivers it’s a choice between going on strike and leaving the industry, so they’re taking a stand for their fellow drivers and the travelling community they’re supporting every day.

“We apologise to our community for the inconvenience and thank our passengers for the ongoing support we’re continuing to receive.”

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A ballot last month of TWU members working for Torrens Transit returned a 95 per cent result in favour of industrial action, including work stoppages.

Torrens Transit is the sole operator of the East-West, Outer North East (which includes the O-Bahn), and Outer North contract regions for Adelaide bus services.

The company is also part of a three-way consortium, “Torrens Connect”, operating the North-South bus contract region, which includes the Adelaide CBD.

“Commuters are strongly encouraged to use alternative transport options, including using park ‘n’ rides to access train and tram services, carpooling with a colleague or friend, or working from home, where possible,” the Department said in a statement on Friday.

“Many services across Adelaide’s eastern and western suburbs, inner north and inner south, as well as the outer north-east (which includes O-Bahn services) and outer north, will not be available on Monday.”

The Department has released a list of 20 bus routes in the affected contract areas which will continue operating today, albeit at 30-minute intervals.

Buses in the Outer South and Hills contract areas are expected to operate on normal timetables.

The Outer South region is operated by national bus company Busways while the Hills are contracted to Keolis Downer subsidiary SouthLink.

The Malinauskas Government has commissioned an internal report from the Transport Department on the feasibility of bringing Adelaide’s bus services – privatised in 2000 – back into public hands.

The report is due to be handed down in February.

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