An article in the Herald from last week, about employers actively discriminating against those who choose not to drive to work, almost slipped past me, but certainly got me pretty worked up when reading it.

Employers are rejecting migrant job-seekers without cars as they have little faith in public transport delivering them to work on time, Auckland Transport has been told.

Ellerslie Residents Association chairman Bryan Johnson, who runs a consultancy helping new migrants, told a hearings panel considering more than 700 submissions on a new public transport plan that many migrants for whom he was trying to find work were turned down by employers because they did not have their own vehicles.

“[They say] if you rely on public transport to come to our business, we don’t want to employ you because it is not reliable.”

For a start, this is a pretty bad indictment of Auckland’s public transport system – or perhaps more specifically an indictment of Auckland Transport’s inability to tell the general public how the PT system has actually improved a lot in the past few years.

But perhaps more specifically I wonder whether this kind of activity, employers actively turning down people who don’t have their own vehicles, should be illegal. I can understand that getting to work on time is very important and I also understand that the PT system can be unreliable at times, but surely it’s the responsibility of the employee to ensure that they find a way of making the situation work for them (perhaps they catch an earlier service to make sure they’re on time).

Furthermore, the Auckland road system can be pretty unreliable at times too. On a rainy day it can often take twice as long to get somewhere as it would on a fine day because of the traffic. On those days I guess people make sure they leave earlier, or if they are late then they suffer the consequences – but I don’t think you’ll see employers refusing to hire someone because they live in a certain area which suffers from bad congestion.

It’d be good to see some follow up on this through the Human Rights Commission to test the legalities.

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  1. i don’t know if it’s legal or if human rights has anything yo do with it. But I’m definitivelly sure is that these employers are heavily stupid and they don’t worth one more single word from my side.

  2. The reality is there are only two modes which are truly reliable all the time and that is walking and cycling (although I guess the later can fall victim to a flat tyre). They are of course also the cheapest options to build for. As for the other modes, roads get congested, PT sometimes breaks down, ferries can affected by bad weather.

    1. “…ferries can affected by bad weather…”

      So can cycling, i got soaked last week even beneath the tree I cowered under.

  3. Both drivers and public transport users are unreliable, compared with walkers like myself, so perhaps both groups should be discriminated against. 🙂

  4. Everything can fail, people work (and live) arround that principle. The only safe move is stand still. The whole thing about putting PT as an excuse makes no sense. To be honest, I don’t know if i would trust in anyone who puts a car in front of food or a boss who dosn’t care about my grandsons (if ever…) It doesn’t say much about the Company. Or maybe it does….
    Can you publish Company names? Shame on them!

  5. to be fair, to ask where those employers are located and whether there is an adequate PT service to that location is a reasonable question, is it not?

    last year I did some work on multimodal access to East Tamaki and it has to be said, the bus service was pretty woeful

    a similar study for the Manukau Metro centre showed the service was patchy and very much depended on where you lived, Mangere Bridge for example, had a poor service to Manukau

    so really, the response has to be according to situation, not a blanket condemnation of “stupid” employers

  6. It is without a doubt completely legal to discriminate on the grounds of what mode of transport someone uses or where (within New Zealand) they live. The only prohibited grounds are these:

    A few years back there was a motel in Palmy that wouldn’t let people from Wainuiomata stay there. Totally legal.

    I’m also glad that Auckland Transport isn’t tooting it’s own horn saying how much better PT is than a few years ago. I’d rather they waited until it actually is reliable. At the moment, there’s not even any trustworthy measurements made.

  7. I think it depends on the job, and where the person lives. If they live in the inner city, with several PT options, then it smells of prejudice. If on the other hand, they live in the PT-less sprawl with a single bus route a day or a rail line that is easily disrupted, and if the job is critical, then of course it makes sense.

    The real discrimination is how people are unable to move easily for their jobs due to housing issues and ultimately, the poor transport system.

    A and B are married. A wants a job in one suburb and has stable transport arrangements. B wants a new job in a different suburb. B’s employer intends discriminating against for wanting to use PT. In the end, you could tolerate B’s discrimination and move both A and B to a place with more reliable transport, but it disrupts A. This is the sad reality in a city with inadequate transport.

    If you were in a normal place, eg Zurich, and it suited both A and B to move because it helped B’s employment without impacting A, because transport options around the city are all very similar, then people would be more mobile.

    Also issues with schools not offering similar services (hence reluctance to move kids), transaction and mortgage taxes and fees. All reasons people are not mobile enough.

    There is plenty in the literature to suggest labour mobility in the USA is an absolute productivity benefit to that country, compared with other countries that don’t promote labour mobility. The car has delivered this. The problem is the car has also delivered problems with congestion and pollution to some localities, exposing the very real disadvantage of relying on PT in that country.

  8. Hi Steve C, I’m sorry I’m not changing my oppinion. Discrimination for car ownership, for me is stupid. I don’t care about laws and I don’t think all employers are stupid. Just those who don’t trust in people’s abilities in finding their way arround possible problems.

  9. I once overheard my departmental manager casually saying in the lunch room one time that “you had to be pretty desperate to want to use public transport”, Not surprisingly in the woefully serviced East Tamaki / Highbrook employment zone, yes I would concede you would indeed have to be pretty desperate. Even the most staunch of Public transport users in the office place recall their first few days of work trying out public transport, giving up in disgust after only a few days, gave away their Discovery monthly passes and getting themselves a cheap car just so they could come in to work on time.

    On a side note, what provisions are being made to avoid a repeat of such horrendously car dependent places like East Tamaki Industrial occuring in the future??

  10. or… employers award car users. I work for an organisation under the Auckland Council. We get discounted car park (somebody gets it for free) but nothing for using PT (and quite a few of my coleagues use PT) .

  11. It depends on the area that the work is based in and how far you live from that area. If the job is in an area with very little public transport, no trains and infrequent bus services, I can sort of understand the employers argument about public transport being unreliable and needing a car.

    If the job is near a place like a train station and good public transport links and are just taking a hit on public transport in general then thats wrong. Even people who have their own car still end up being late for work as they can get stuck in bad traffic, or their car breaks down. It should really be down the the person to ensure the employer that they can get to work on time and allow themselve enough time to get their workplace and not for the employer to assume, as they would be under a probation period and they could easily sack staff who turn up late on a regular occurance.

    Public transport efficency could be better improved as well.

    1. Exactly – it is reasonable to expect the employee to have a means of getting to work. If your work is not supported by public transport (or timetables do not support the shift times i.e. night workers), then it is a valid question to ask.

  12. Makes me wonder too if perhaps, we don’t have some companies employees who blame “The Traffic” the bus or the Train for being consistently late too much when its actually due to other things.
    [like sleeping in]. – Which like bad driving behaviour, then taints the field for the rest of us.

    I am sure there are some employers who discriminate on PT usage out there, and they need to be helped to overcome that prejudice – the best way of course is by getting the PT system up to snuff.

    I can perhaps understand it if for example why an employer might be leery of relying on someone if they only use PT, if for example the employee was employed as a driver [and is usual, not allowed to use the vehicles after hours to get to/from work]. And then had to be at work on a set time to start their job – and yet could not manage it due to problems with their PT arrangements.

    I am not however condoning it, just pointing out that this is a two way street between employer and employee – not a one way street.

    And longer term, these employers, like those who pay under legal minimum wage, will be forced to wise up and change their ways.

    The best revenge for us all, is the one of where we are travelling well on a world class PT system everywhere you need to be, while they are stuck in endless traffic jams, wondering why they’re not getting ahead.

  13. Um, how has Auckland’s public transport improved in the past few years? The Northern Express? Nup, doesn’t benefit me one iota. Fare increases over and above the rate of inflation? Nup. New train stations? Nup (85% of PT users still only use the bus). Hop cards eliminating flexible monthly passes? Nup. Zero timetable changes in 13 years? Nup. REal-time info that isn’t real? Nup.

    From my perspective, Auckland has stagnated in totally ignoring its bus system, the means of PT transport for 85% of Aucklanders. It actually feels like it’s gone backwards. This should be a massive wakeup call for the goons at Auckland TRansport who clearly don’t actually use Auckland’s public transport.

  14. I think everyone’s being a little bit too precious here.

    Private companies have the right to choose the best employee for the job. If it means you have to have a car than so be it.

    1. Having a car for the job is fine. Some people need access to a car all day.

      But we are talking about assessing people on how they get to work not what they need to do their job. I agree it isnt a legal issue but more of an indictment on Auckland and the attitude bred into Aucklanders over years that PT cant work in Auckland. Not having been raised in Auckland the myopic view of Aucklanders, especially Baby Boomer Aucklanders, to PT is a constant source of amusement.

      When you suggest someone could travel by train to an event, their eyes widen and they look at you like you just suggested they could teleport there.

      1. My wife, 51, and I , 47, caught the train recently to Britomart from Manurewa to see Cliff Richard at Vector Arena. Her friends were amazed that we didn’t just drive. We drove to the station as we weren’t walking home at midnight, even though only 5 minutes walk. Basically no-one was on the the train, either there or back.

        Would do it again next time as there were no problems.

  15. So summarising.. Walking is top for reliability at 100% closely followed by cycling. But obviously neither is always practical or possible (e.g. crossing the bridge…..). Car is not necessarily better than PT.. indeed at peak times many commutes are way more predictable by train or bus than car. Including mine.

    At the end of the day, from an employer’s perspective, it’s hard to argue with Fred’s assessment of those who think an employee’s personal to get to their place of work is in any way relevant, as long as they arrive fit to work and on time: “heavily stupid”!!

  16. Hmm.. although of course in the long run, the more employers encourage driving to work, whether tacitly or proactively, the more they costs they unwittingly impose on their employees’ efforts at good timekeeping, and therefore their collective productivity.

  17. This is utter nonsense. It’s not the business of an employer how one travels to work as long as you are on time.
    Usually PT users are better timekeepers than car users because they have to operate to a timetable not the other way round.

  18. What was the point of the three month “try before you buy” period then? If the employee cannot make it to work because of public transport or a crappy car then see you later. Not that there is really any job security for most folk these days anyway.

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