Talks underway to avert another Adelaide bus strike

The bus drivers’ union and Torrens Transit are meeting today in a bid to resolve an industrial dispute which sparked a strike on Monday and a warning that others might follow.

Jan 10, 2023, updated Jan 10, 2023
An out of service Adelaide Metro bus during Monday's strike action. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

An out of service Adelaide Metro bus during Monday's strike action. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

The two parties entered negotiations at 10am today, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) pressing its demands for a new enterprise bargaining agreement to enshrine greater pay and conditions for Torrens Transit bus drivers.

Neither the TWU nor Torrens Transit provided an update on the talks this morning. The negotiations are expected to last for much of the day.

The meeting comes after hundreds of unionised Torrens Transit bus drivers walked off the job on Monday, disrupting more than two-thirds of the Adelaide Metro bus network and causing a “traffic logjam” in the CBD.

The 24-hour work stoppage ended at 3am today. TWU SA branch secretary Ian Smith yesterday told InDaily the strike could be “the first of many”.

However, he also said, “the union and our members will consider any offer put forward”.

The TWU is asking Torrens Transit 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 new drivers is as low as $25.70 per hour.

A 14 per cent increase from $28.58 to $32.58 an hour is higher than Torrens Transit’s current offer of a 5.75 per cent increase and a 0.25 per cent super increase.

The union is also seeking changes to the company’s rostering system where it says a 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.

It is also seeking improved weekend penalty rates, annual leave loading, enforceable four-minute turnaround times so drivers “can stand up and go to the toilet”, and changes to rostering to give drivers more notice about their shift times.

Both the TWU and Torrens Transit are facing public pressure from the Malinauskas Government to avert another work stoppage.

Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis yesterday branded the situation “unacceptable” and said commuters have “every right to be upset and annoyed with not only the union but also Torrens Transit”.

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“Quite frankly, both those organisations should have been able to avoid [the strike],” he told reporters on Monday.

Premier Peter Malinauskas also indicated the state government will “keep all our options open” after being asked whether he would intervene in the negotiations.

Torrens Transit, a subsidiary of ASX-listed transport company Kelsian Group, 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.

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