By Luke Voogt
Bus drivers have gone on strike causing disruptions to “half” of Geelong’s services on 10 routes to northern suburbs and other destinations.
The drivers stopped work to demand a four per cent pay rise and an increase of one per cent in superannuation.
“We don’t take industrial action lightly and we certainly apologise to the public for this,” said John Berger, Victorian Transport Workers Union secretary.
“But we haven’t taken strike action in 20 years.”
The strike comes after the union rejected bus company CDC’s proposed 2.5 per cent yearly pay rise, above Australia’s inflation rate of 1.9 per cent.
“It’s not just isolated to CDC,” Mr Berger said.
“It’s across the bus industry in Victoria.”
Bus drivers earned between $26 and $28 per hour on average, according to Mr Berger, equating to about $53,000 per year.
They had received yearly three per cent pay rises for the last decade meaning CDC was offering a lower-than-usual raise, Mr Berger explained.
Public Transport Victoria (PTV) chief executive officer (CEO) Jeroen Weimar apologised for the “disappointing” strike which he said disrupted half of Geelong’s buses.
The strike caused “real inconvenience” to passengers during school and university holidays, he said.
“I strongly encourage CDC Victoria and the (union) to continue negotiations, and exhaust all avenues to resolve this dispute.”
CDC CEO Nicholas Yap described his company’s latest offer as fair.
“Our drivers do a very important job and we feel this wage offer demonstrates our support for them,” he said.
Some commuters in Moorabool Street complained about the inconvenience or described the pay demands as excessive.
Others on social media slammed “aggressive” bus drivers “bullying” other motorists, or warned the strike would affect the elderly or people with a disability.
But Norlane pensioner Lorraine Miller had more sympathy for local bus drivers.
“I thought it was a little bit late,” the 70-year-old said, after discovering the strike affected her regular route 22 bus.
“I think (bus drivers) are entitled to (a raise) because of the abuse they get from passengers,” she said.
“They do a great job.”
Catching an alternative bus would force her to cross Princess Highway to get home, she said.
“Which at my age I get nervous about.
“But I’ve travelled by bus since 1996 and this is the first time I remember there being a strike. So I’m not going to whinge about it.”