Union leaders have agreed to meet NZ Bus this morning to discuss a company bid to head off a day-long strike by its Auckland drivers on Monday, the first of eight.
The company, which operates more than 60 per cent of Auckland's bus and provides about 130,000 passenger trips daily, yesterday offered an extended employment agreement with an extra 40c pay rise towards the end of it.
Chief operating officer Shane McMahon said it could not increase the amount it had previously offered for a 27-month agreement, which would have lifted drivers' wages to $20 an hour by December next year, from $18.75c now. That would make the company "totally uncompetitive in the market", he said.
But it would offer a further increase to $20.40c from the end of 2014 until the following July in an effort to avoid weekly strikes.
"We would strongly urge the unions to lift the notice of strike action today, provide Aucklanders with certainty of service...
and get back around the table to see if there are any other areas we can work on that are non-financial that may help us get across the line," Mr McMahon said.
He also wanted to work with the unions to see if they could help the company to ensure children can get to and from school safely on Monday.
Auckland Transport says it is arranging with other bus companies to cover as many main scheduled routes as possible, but will not have enough buses available for school runs.
Tramways Union Auckland president Gary Froggatt said he wanted to discuss the new offer with the company before commenting on it.
Both his union and the First Union had agreed to meet the company this morning, when its request for the strike notice to be lifted would also be discussed.
The company had previously offered a backdated rise of 40c an hour now, to be followed by a further 40c in July and a final 45c in December next year.
That was approved in principle by negotiators for the two unions last week, with support from the Council of Trade Unions, but their members rejected the deal on Monday in favour of a 75c pay rise now and 50c more in July, to reach $20 an hour earlier than the company wanted.