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Foreign bus drivers can help fill Sydney shortage, head of industry taskforce suggests

The head of a taskforce set up to fix Sydney’s struggling bus services has suggested bringing in overseas workers to fill driver shortages.

Private operators that run the network have blamed hundreds of driver vacancies for months of delays and cancellations.

Bus Industry Taskforce chairperson John Lee said recruitment drives had resulted in about 300 new drivers, but another 380 were still needed.

He told ABC Radio Sydney’s Sarah Macdonald that the lack of unskilled migration had contributed to the shortage.

“When you get new people coming to our city and our country, their start-up jobs are jobs like delivery drivers, health or aged care assistants, or bus drivers,” Mr Lee said.

“And we haven’t had unskilled migration.”

The former New South Wales bus network chief suggested an arrangement similar to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme could be used to secure more drivers.

There are still 380 more bus drivers needed in Sydney.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

“We’ve actually got seasonal workers who already come from the Pacific Islands to pick fruit to work in agriculture,” Mr Lee said.

“”And we think this type of job [bus driver] is a vital job.”

Mr Lee pointed to New Zealand, which has attracted hundreds of foreign drivers this year after introducing a two-year work-to-residence pathway for truck and bus drivers in December.

“The reason they don’t have a bus shortage is they purposely targeted experienced drivers out of Asia, and they focused on the Philippines,” he said.

Suggestion ‘misses the mark’

At the height of the shortage earlier this year, there were 800 vacancies.

Mr Lee said more than 800 people had signed on but at the same time other drivers had retired or left the system.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-28/overseas-bus-drivers-pacific-island-sydney-shortage-taskforce/102913686 Foreign bus drivers can help fill Sydney shortage, head of industry taskforce suggests

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