Commuters will get free travel indefinitely on 49 Melbourne bus routes as negotiations to settle a pay dispute between CDC Victoria and the Transport Workers Union stalled.
Myki card readers will be turned off from Saturday in parts of Melbourne’s west, inner east and southeast, as well as Ballarat and Geelong.
The 600 CDC bus drivers will also refuse to collect fares and not wear company uniforms, TWU said.
The union escalated industrial action following three strikes this month, as four months of negotiations again reached a standstill.
Members have called for a 4 per cent pay rise, but have only been offered 2.5 per cent.
The Fair Work Commission mediation last Friday failed to progress negotiations, TWU said, when CDC re-tabled the previously rejected offer.
“We have stopped the buses three times now and have the option to do that again next week, so that is certainly not off the table,” TWU Victoria secretary John Berger said.
“We will simply continue to campaign – and consider using any and all tools available to us – until a fair agreement acceptable to our members is reached.”
TWU is ready to continue negotiations at any time, Mr Berger said.
If CDC wants to table a sensible offer then we may start to see the end of this dispute.”
He said “a happy consequence” of not taking fares is that drivers can continue to pressure the operator without affecting commuters.
The bus drivers staged a 24-hour strike last Tuesday, as well as two further shorter strike actions throughout the week.
“Victorian bus drivers have not taken strike action for 20 years but there comes a time when you have to look after yourself and these drivers have drawn a line in the sand.”
A stoppage planned for this Friday was called off on Wednesday, and CDC was informed of the fare strike.
TWU previously said 90 per cent of members voted to take protection after negotiations stalled with a “disrespectful and insulting offer” of 2.5 per cent.
The union said the offer was less than the average of the past 15 annual wage increases.
A CDC spokesperson last week told The New Daily previous increases were pegged to the Australian Bureau of Statistics wage index model.
“During the mining boom, those increases were high.
“With the wage index now somewhat sluggish, CDC has offered fixed increases which is higher than the average increases that our drivers have received over the period of our last EBA, as well as increases to superannuation. This will make our wages 25 per cent higher than the equivalent rate under the Modern Award.”
CDC offered paid parental leave and family and domestic violence leave, as well as permanent part-time options for workers transitioning into retirement or returning to the workforce.
“We believe that our offer respects the important work of our bus drivers in delivering a vital community service and is fair and reasonable.
“It is an offer designed to reflect the demands of the modern workforce and enhance our reputation as the preferred employer of bus drivers in Victoria.”
A Public Transport Victoria spokesperson called on CDC and TWU to “resolve the dispute as soon as possible in the interest of all Victorians”.
The lost income from uncollected fares will mean less to reinvest in the state’s public transport network.
All 600 TWU members at CDC’s Wyndham, Geelong, Ballarat, Oakleigh and Sunshine depots will take the fare strike.
The “vast majority” of CDC bus drivers are TWU members, the union said.
The New Daily contacted CDC on Thursday.