Train services in the Wellington region will be disrupted tomorrow by a two-hour strike, but the reason for the strike is in dispute.
Rail workers at Transdev, the French multinational, and Hyundai Rotem Company will strike from 11am to 1pm over their employers' repeated attempts to claw back hard-won terms and conditions, according to Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson.
But Transdev's manager of people and culture David Gould said the strike was never about conditions, and that Butson had told him the strike was so the union could hold a meeting for all its members.
"This is absolutely not about terms and conditions of employment ... the union have actually told us that quite clearly."
Gould said the strike was about the union having the ability to have a meeting with all its members "and stop the trains in doing so".
The company had been working with the union and tried to organise for the meetings to be held on Saturdays and staff to be paid overtime, he said.
"It's been a common practice for over 20 years that whenever they want to hold a meeting they bring everyone together in one place and that stops trains."
He said the union had refused to discuss conditions with them, including conditions that would be beneficial to employees.
"We're just standing here scratching our heads. It makes absolutely no sense to us that the union have taken this action."
But Butson is telling a different story, saying the companies are trying to take away "hard-won" terms and conditions from workers.
Transdev and Hyundai Rotem Company are private companies providing a public service under contract with the Greater Wellington Regional Council. In their bids to run the region's train services both companies committed to employ rail workers who transferred from KiwiRail on the same or more favourable terms and conditions, he said.
"When the two companies made their bids to Greater Wellington Regional Council both committed to employing staff who were transferring from KiwiRail on the same or more favourable terms and conditions. But Transdev and Hyundai Rotem Company want to break that commitment.
"This really is a last resort for our members. They've made their case over and over again, but their employer is set on clawing back as many terms and conditions as possible.
"This is another example of private companies wanting to profit off the back of their workforce. We saw it with bus companies and now we're seeing it with train operators. The way these companies maximise their profits is by trying to screw down terms and conditions for their workers. It's a disgrace and the whole model is sanctioned by the Greater Wellington Regional Council."