ACTION Buses says it is baffled by claims from the Transport Workers Union that up to 250 runs are being canceled each week due to a chronic shortage of bus drivers and mechanics.
TWU Spokesperson Klaus Pinkas stated that ACTION is finding recruitment and retention of staff difficult, and that there was a lack of forward planning when new bus networks were brought into effect.
“They only work out how many drivers they need to run that network about four to five weeks out and then recruit like mad to try to cover the gap. And they haven’t been able to do that. And when there are enough drivers, a lot of the time they are sitting around waiting for a bus, because the workshop is so understaffed,” Mr Pinkas said.
In 2008 ACTION launched a new network which, due to staff shortages, was limited to weekdays only, with a weekend network dominated by loop services. At the time ACTION stated the new network would be extended to weekends once a sufficient number of drivers had been recruited. Almost three years later, this has still not eventuated.
Whilst stating that the TWU’s numbers are incorrect, ACTION director James Roncon admitted there were concerns over the staff numbers.
“We certainly do have a problem in terms of recruiting driver numbers at the moment. We’ve had a big recruitment process recently where we had 104 applications. We’ve got 64 potential drivers being interviewed next week.
“Clearly there are other mitigating factors that are involved in this. We’ve got a natural staff attrition, we’ve got an ageing workforce at ACTION and when people that are retiring or coming to that age, clearly we recruit eight people and we lose four, having a net gain of four. So it is a little bit difficult in this market at the moment to make significant in-roads but we are working overtime to do that.”
“We’re not attempting to hide anything or be anything less than open and transparent,” Mr Roncon said.