The strike affected more than 50 routes in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat. (ABC News: James Hancock)
About 600 bus drivers have walked off the job for 24 hours in Geelong, Ballarat and parts of Melbourne as part of a wage dispute — and their union is threatening further action if it’s not resolved.
Transport Workers Union (TWU) members who drive buses for CDC Victoria began striking at 4:00am in the first industrial action of its kind in two decades.
The company is offering a wage increase of 2.5 per cent but the union is arguing for 4 per cent.
The strike was expected to shut down all of Ballarat’s bus network and half of the bus network in Geelong. Parts of Melbourne’s east are also affected.
TWU national vice president John Berger said the decision to strike was not taken lightly, but 95 per cent of members voted in favour of strike action.
“This is the first time bus drivers have taken action for 20 years. We don’t take that action lightly so we apologise to the general public,” he said.
Fleets of buses were parked along strike picket lines at CDC depots in Wyndham, Oakleigh, Geelong and Ballarat, with drivers crowding at the entrance.
The company is understood to be offering a Sunday timetable service in Geelong but it was not clear whether there would be any services elsewhere.
Commuters were advised to make alternative arrangements.
‘Lowest paid, hardest working’
Mr Berger said the strike was just the first step in the process and action would continue on Friday and next Tuesday if the dispute was not resolved.
Drivers make between $26 and $28 an hour and work between the hours of 4:00am and 1:30am, the union said.
George Joseph, who has been driving for the company for nine years, said the wage increase offered was not good enough.
“Let’s be frank. After 10 hours it’s 80 cents,” he said.
“You can’t get a lollipop for 80 cents.
“I think in this industry we are the lowest paid bus drivers and we are the hardest working people.”
Driver Rod Leitch said all of his colleagues were “fired up and keen to see this through”.
“All our drivers have regular bus runs, regular people who get on the bus,” he said.
“Yeah, we feel for the passengers, but there’s a time when you have to look after yourself and … today is it.”
Jereon Weimar, the chief executive of Public Transport Victoria (PTV), said commuters needed to be prepared to change their travel plans.
“It’s disappointing that this action will be going ahead as it will cause real inconvenience to many of our bus passengers,” he said.