More than 1500 bus drivers start 24-hour strike

Dyson and Ventura employ more than 3,000 people and have more than 1,300 buses in their fleet. The strike will last until 4 a.m. Saturday.

More than 50 Ventura bus routes through Melbourne’s eastern, southern and northern suburbs are closed, including popular routes from Box Hill station to Deakin University. Ventura’s Specialist School and NightBus services will not be affected by the strike. Ventura did not respond to requests for comment.

Driver Paul Addamo strikes Friday at Dyson's Bundoora depot

Driver Paul Addamo strikes Friday at Dyson’s Bundoora depotCredit:Wayne Taylor

The union claimed Dyson was forced to take 450 buses off the roads through metropolitan Melbourne, affecting at least 80 tube routes and 100 school trips. Dyson disputed this estimate, but did not provide an alternative number.

A third of Melbourne’s buses continued to run after bus company Kinetic reached an agreement with drivers during crisis talks on Tuesday.

Transport Workers Union secretary Mike McNess said the strike was a “last resort” for bus drivers. He said nearly half of the bus drivers in the city’s northern and southeastern suburbs had joined the action.

Paul Addamo, 64, has been a bus driver for 30 years, half of which worked on Dyson buses in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Bus drivers went on strike in Bundoora on Friday.

Bus drivers went on strike in Bundoora on Friday.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Addamo said working conditions such as regular start and end times needed to be better managed. “There is no work-life balance, there is no sleep.”

The full-time driver said he would work a five-hour shift on some days, while working up to 2 p.m. on other days. “It’s everywhere,” he said.

Driver Ravneet Sohi, 31, also advocated a better scheduling system, saying he often missed quality time with his two children due to inconsistent schedules.

Chris Lowe, executive director of Bus Association Victoria, the industry representative for bus operators in Victoria, said the union demands were “unreasonable”.

“The only way the TWU terms will be accepted is if the government is willing to pay, which is not the case,” he said.

The union’s list of demands includes banned minimum wage increases for the next three years and reducing the rest time for heavy vehicles from the current national standard from five hours to three hours.

McNess said the union and Ventura had reached an initial wage agreement, but Dysons had “not put anything on the table”.

Lowe, who represents Dysons, said the pay increase would come at a significant cost to the bus company, which was already operating on thin margins.

Some commuters who relied on Melbourne buses this morning had to make other travel plans.

Some commuters who relied on Melbourne buses this morning had to make other travel plans.Credit:Chris Hopkins

The state government currently spends $800 million on metrobus services, nearly half of which goes to labor.

“The cost would be significant for bus companies,” he said.

Union negotiations with Ventura and Dysons continue next week.

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