NZ driver strike escalates


Bus services in Auckland will grind to a halt as more than 1000 drivers stop work on Friday

Kiwi bus users are likely to have trouble getting to their destination including some students, as more than 1000 drivers strike on Friday.

The largest employer of drivers involved in the strike, NZ Bus, says it is surprised and disappointed by the move.

Drivers from both Tramways Union and First Union are currently negotiating over pay and conditions with NZ Bus and Howick & Eastern Buses, and say stopping work is necessary with negotiations having stalled since November last year.

NZ Bus tells a different version of events, saying good progress was made on employment negotiations just last week.

"This is a bitterly frustrating outcome for Auckland commuters, and all parties concerned," NZ Bus chief operating officer northern Shane McMahon says.

"NZ Bus drivers enjoy the best terms and conditions in the industry."

While drivers are emphasising a need to reduce their long working hours, work time rules for the industry are set by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), not NZ Bus.

"Any concerns with the rules should be taken up at a central government level," McMahon says.

"Drivers do get short breaks between trips, with time to go to the toilet.

"We are aware there is an issue with a shortage of toilet facilities in certain locations, and NZ Bus has been working with Auckland Transport (AT) to resolve this."

The Tramways Union insists industrial action is the only way to achieve a fair outcome for drivers.

"Drivers to not take this step lightly but are increasingly frustrated by a lack of movement in both collective agreement negotiations and around changes to rosters, which have drastically changed family time as well as increased work periods without sufficient breaks," a Tramways Union spokesperson says.

New rosters and AT timetables do not take into account the increased running times due to increased traffic, continuous road works, and route changes due to inner city construction, according to the union.

"As the front person, drivers often have to contend with passenger frustration, while attempting to maintain timetables to the detriment of their own health and safety."

The competitive tender process is having a direct impact of drivers pay and conditions, as every dollar is scrutinised, the Tramways Union claims.

"The Auckland Transport Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) tender process has also added to driver frustration, as it is effectively driving down drivers pay and conditions by tender.

"This has been shown by the allocation to bus companies that have not driven public transport routes in Auckland City and in one case, a company that usually only runs school trips and charters."

Tramways Union is seeking 2.95 per cent wage increase along with increases in the shift allowance, extra sick leave and changes in work conditions, while NZ Bus has offered a 1.7 per cent pay rise.

AT advises bus services will be very limited on Friday, with heavy congestion on roads likely and recommends people plan ahead to find alternative ways to get to their destination.

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