Interviews with Sydney Bus Workers

Waverly Bus Depot

RW: What do you think of union delegates at the depots?

Waverley bussie: Some delegates are not doing their job. Particularly with the advent of the Howard Govt. and its plans for major changes to industrial relations, delegates need to help out workers with maximum dedication and effort, given the unbelievably hard task presented by the likely attacks by the bosses encouraged by the Howard Govt. Delegates need to avoid flirtations with bosses, and should not accept the bosses' bribes of cushy, no driving shifts and the offers of plum jobs in Nth Sydney. Being humble and meek is the way to go. Delegates need also to develop investigative skills to suss out a rat. The rank and file need to seriously question and replace delegates who become bosses' stooges and vote them out at elections.

RW: What do you think of the PTU on the state level?

WB: Like most union executives, it is quite conservative, and its horizons have been limited to the membership. It needs to work together with other community groups such as environmental and socialist groups and become engaged in confronting a range of environmental and social problems. We all need to stick together, because we all need each other to fight a staunch rightwing govt., as never before. During the recent march and protest by the maritime and building unions from Town Hall to Phillip St., I was surprised to see Roger Jowett, national officer of the PTU, involved in the protest. This is one of the very few examples of officials from different unions working together in protest action against Howard Govt. plans.

RW: What ideas do you have for improving bus safety?

WB: There needs to be transit police patrolling buses late at night. It is also necessary that this fact is widely advertised on the TV. On the 380's late at night there there have recently been very serious breaches of security. Some passengers have been eager to attack drivers without a second thought. On the Eastern Suburbs we need two transit police to get on and off buses randomly.THIS IS AN URGENT PRIORITY!

RW: What's happening at Waverley?

WB: The new boss at the depot, Brian Mander who was too eager to do too many things, for some strange reason is going to disappear. Such bosses, to show how smart they are, show how bullheaded they are. They fail to consider the needs of the workers before grandstanding. It is obvious that bosses like Mander can't handle depots without understanding the needs of the workers.

RW: What ideas do you have for solving the traffic congestion problem in Sydney?

WB: An idea that the environmental group "Friends of the Earth" is pushing is the banning of cars in the CBD. Only people working there would be issued with permits for parking. Highrise car parks will need to be constructed within 10 minute bus trips from the CBD, so as to encourage usage of public transport, unclogging the CBD of vehicles and making our job that much easier, through improving the flow of traffic. This will eventually be the case, hopefully before the Olympics.

Leichhardt Bus Depot

RW: What's happening at Leichhardt?

Leichhardt Bussie: The depot is a disgrace! Leaks are occurring. Recently one driver had to use an umbrella to go into the toilet due to water leaking. Leaks are also occurring in the meal room. The shower is an unhealthy mess with a decaying shower screen. There hasn't been soap in the soap dispeners for weeks. Whilst the floor is covered in black grease. Recently a large swastika was drawn in the grease. Perhaps this is going to be State Transit's new loggo replacing the snail. Joe Cassimoro, the Occupational Health and Safety rep, has done nothing about these appalling and rank conditions. Although he finds the time to harass drivers over windows left open on buses and smoking cigarettes. The cleaner with no name or qualifications, given the depot's filthy state, should be sent back to training and explained the use of soap. At Glebe and Birchgrove terminuses the toilets are emanating a vulgar stench, whilst leaves are building up in them, with vermin likely to take up residence.At STA head office opposite Milson's Pt, the bosses enjoy immaculate working conditions. The depot manager's office, along with the revenue people's office, as well as Sam Severino's office are also kept clean. Unlike the rest of us who have to put with the filthy meal room, the Leichhardt mafia can dine at their institute, purchasing food from the funds they rort from it.

RW: What's happening with the bosses?

LB: Heming (previous depot manager) "the leming" who jumped off to Ryde depot has been forced back to clerical work, where he always belonged, has been replaced by Egle Garrick, who enjoys preening herself in her immaculate office.

RW: What has been done to deal with these unhealthy conditions at the depot?

LB:A concerned driver recently prepared a report on the appalling state of the depot and submitted it to the manager. She said improvement would occur in one month. Its 2 weeks now and nothing has been done. Interestingly, the deadline for the improvement is not far off the Carr Govt's review of all bus route tenders, in early July. This tender review process is rigged to favour West Bus, who have good chums in the Ministry of Transport. With privatisation of Leichhardt routes and perhaps the whole STA, there won't be any need for improvements to the depot.

RW: What's happening regarding maintenance of the depot's fleet of buses?

LB: The mechanics at Ryde are still not fixing the bus stop brake, as they are not drivers, they apparently don't understand its importance.

RW: What's the latest with the Leichhardt Mafia?

LB: Sam Severino and his fellow bosses' stooges and cronies who predominate on the broken shift, help themselves to the easy runs such as the casino shuttles and now are finishing their shifts at 1pm. Whilst the AM drivers' finishing times are being extended from 3.30pm to 4pm. They are very annoyed and disgruntled by this favouritism. I wouldn't be surprised if the key bosses' stooge and union rep, Peter Brewer isn't in on these cushy runs. The last thing I have heard about Brewer is that he was handing around a petition put out by the ACTU regarding the Liberal's industrial relations plans. He received a cool reception from drivers. Currently he seems to be very low key.

RW: What do you think of the wages of State Transit drivers?

LB: You would be paid better driving a garbage truck. Drivers for Collex get $18 an hour, while we get $13 an hour.

Kingsgrove Bus Depot

RW: What's happening at Kingsgrove?

Kingsgrove Bussie: As a result of drivers facing disciplinary action if in one year, they have 3 accidents considered to be their fault, they are getting worried, and try to hide damage caused by accidents such as broken mirrors. They can say it fell off! However, if they are cronies of the maintenance manager, they can get this damage repaired on the sly. The bosses are having the buses checked at night, and having stickers with numbers on them placed on those damaged. These numbers are entered into a book and put in a computer. The bosses are happy to blame us for accidents, failing to take into account the effects of their ruthless pursuit of the speedup.

Recently one driver, who was on the 400 relief roster, normal day shift was kept being given midday and later shifts.He told the bosses that he didn't want to do them as it interferred with his family life. He was told nothing could be done about it due to a shortage of drivers and that currently instructors were training up new drivers. Although there has been no reduction in DOC's. Eventually a slanging match erupted in the foyer of the depot, between this driver, the union rep and the roster people, which led to the resolution of his problem.

A driver affectionately known as "Gonzo" has booked up a lot of buses and has had them taken off the road, due to defects. As a result, the bosses have decided to get rid of him. One day a driver assessor from Nth Sydney got on his bus and disapproved of his driving. Subsequently, his driving was to be monitored by assessors for 2 weeks. Why not 1 or 2 days? The bosses' plan appears to be to have his driving put under the microscope and given the effects of increased stress, further grounds will be found to have him sacked.

RW: How is "Sparks" being received at the depot?

KB: It is definitely provoking a lot of discussion and interest. I have noticed drivers often looking for copies. Of course the reception to the content is mixed. Some drivers highly appreciate it, whilst others look at it much less favourably.

Recently a "PTU source" told me that "a fascist minority was going to get the person who speaks to RW.." That person is in fear of his of life. The last edition sparked a lot of discussion about sacking Malcom Lees as union rep. ( How to get rid of a bosses stooge union rep )

RW: What's happening with the "union" at the depot?

KB: No union meetings are being held due to a lack of a quorum. As a result, the bosses can get their way and walk over us, rough shod. The union rep, Malcolm Lees is playing at being the manager. I have noticed the bosses are becoming ever more arrogant.One of the bosses, Tony Hayes has been threatening drivers with the sack if they don't come to work on time or ring in late that they aren't coming to work.

RW: What's happening with bus safety?

KB: There have been several serious incidents lately. There have been rumours that at the end of April on the 492-494 routes, that buses have been shot at. One bus had a big hole in its window. After inquiries by concerned drivers, the PTU/STA said one bus had been attacked by someone with a slingshot. No notices have been put up to allay drivers' fears. Also recently a driver was stabbed with a syringe.

RW: What's happening with bus mirrors?

KB: New bus mirrors have been trialed. One style which is to be introduced is extended too far forward and because if you stop near trees, the mirror is likely to be damaged. A major contribution to injuries amongst the elderly when alighting from buses is buses stopping away from the curb, due to parked cars and tree branches. The other more appropriate mirror, is the split mirror which provides good visibility. I consider that action shouldn't be taken against drivers if a mirror is broken, not as a result of an accident.

RW: What else is happening?

KB: A mobile phone tower has been constructed in the depot yard. Although such towers aren't built near schools due to the threat of brain cancer. Given this threat of exposure to cancer causing waves to the mechanics in the workshops underneath, shed drivers and cleaners, why has it been built at the depot? There has been no mention by the bosses regarding how safe this tower is.

RW: What's happening with patronage of Kingsgrove bus services?

KB: The area manager of the Burwood / Kingsgrove division of the STA has said patronage has increased by 15% due to improved customer service. Although "Service to All" courses have been cancelled due to a shortage of drivers. A better explanation of this increased patronage is more frequent bus services and as a result passengers don't need to stand.

RW: What do you think of recruitment for the selective rosters?

KB: Drivers from all the depots should be able to apply for jobs on these rosters, not just drivers at the depot which covers these runs.

Willoughby Bus Depot

RW: What's happening at the depot?

Willoughby Bussie: The payin machines at the depot are continuing to malfunction causing drivers to be ripped off. If you put a hundred coins through the machine, you can be ripped off by $10. The maintenance of buses at the depot remains appalling. The bus I was recently driving had shocking brakes. At least 50% of buses at the depot are in urgent need of extensive maintenance work and are a danger to drive. Contributing to this situation has been a lack of mechanics due to retrenchments by the bosses.

RW: What's happening on the roads?

WB: The lights on the Pacific Highway at Falcon St. are not synchronised correctly. Whilst the corners on the Pacific Highway up from Nth Sydney need to be cut off. On the intersection of Mowbray and Penshurst Sts, there is a strong likelihood of an accident due to buses having difficulty turning unless the corner is shaved off. In regard to the roundabout from Pembroke to Epping Rd, buses are having a lot of difficulty going around it.

Brisbane Bussie News

In recent weeks in Brisbane, PTU union bosses were able to railroad through a mass meeting a new enterprise deal affecting Brisbane bus drivers. As a result of this sellout deal, they will lose time for signing on and off and part time employment will be introduced.