A 24-hour bus strike has been called off at the last minute after the Victorian government intervened to stop a day of chaotic commutes.
About 1000 bus drivers planned to walk off the job for all of Thursday as part of a pay dispute between the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and bus operators CDC and Transdev.
It would have affected 120 routes and school buses in Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong.
But the action was called off on Wednesday after the government helped to broker a new deal.
CDC and Transdev both offered a 4 per cent annual raise, with 2 per cent increases every six months, back paid to July.
A one-off $1800 lump superannuation sum will be paid later this year, reflecting a 1 per cent increase of mandatory super payments.
CDC had previously stood firm at a 2.5 per cent raise.
The strike has been suspended while members vote on the new deals.
“This new offer falls within what the TWU was demanding on behalf of members and does not include any trade-offs,” TWU state secretary John Berger said on Wednesday afternoon.
The members could still reject the offer and take further industrial action.
Voting is expected to begin next week but could last for four weeks.
It comes after Treasurer Tim Pallas and Transport Minister Jacinta Allan met with Mr Berger late on Tuesday to help restart negotiations with CDC.
TWU said that meeting was “productive” and the government then met with the bus operator, which upped its offer on Wednesday morning.
Transdev mirrored that offer late on Wednesday afternoon to have the planned stoppage suspended, TWU said.
A government spokeswoman said the Andrews government was “pleased all parties returned to the table to reach this resolution”.
“Recognising the impact industrial action would have had on passengers, the government has been working with both parties over the past few days.”
Transdev operates 30 per cent of Melbourne’s bus network and CDC Victoria runs about 17 per cent of the state’s bus network.
Mr Berger claimed the offers as a big win.
“Our members were low-balled by the operators in the original offers they made to the drivers and the drivers decided they would fight for a decent increase,” Mr Berger said.
“These drivers are hard-working members of the community and have mouths to feed and bills to pay and could not see any future benefit in what was originally on the table.
“They forced the hand of these companies.”
Public Transport Victoria deputy CEO Alan Fedda said it was a “terrific” outcome for passengers.
TWU previously said it had told all Victorian bus operators that union delegates would pursue fixed increases, and would not accept average weekly earnings.
Negotiations with CDC have gone on for four months, and with Transdev for several months.
CDC was the first major operator to begin negotiations and those drivers have already held several stoppages, including one 24-hour strike.
Members lifted all industrial action for two weeks to cool the dispute amid negotiations, which again broke down on Friday when the Thursday action was called.
More than 90 per cent of Transdev members had voted to take the now-cancelled strike on Thursday.
TWU has held two meetings each with operators Ventura and Dysons.
“Although we are still only in the early stages of negotiations with these operators, talks are progressing in good faith and we hope for positive outcomes.”
Mr Berger on Wednesday said members “all want the chance to stand up and fight for a living wage”.
“And they will.”
The New Daily approached CDC and Transdev for comment.