Rival firms to cover strike-hit bus routes

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland Transport is arranging emergency cover for main route bus services facing disruption from a drivers' strike. Photo / NZPA
Auckland Transport is arranging emergency cover for main route bus services facing disruption from a drivers' strike. Photo / NZPA

Auckland Transport is arranging emergency cover for main route bus services facing disruption from a drivers' strike on Monday, but says school runs will miss out.

Unions are planning day-long strikes for each of the next eight Mondays against NZ Bus after the drivers this week rejected a recommendation from their negotiators to accept a 6.55 per cent wage rise in three stages between now and December next year.

They want the money paid in two instalments, starting with an immediate 75c increase on their hourly wage of $18.75c, to be followed by a 50c rise to $20 in July.

The council transport body's chief operating officer, Greg Edmonds, said yesterday it was arranging with other bus companies to cover the region's busiest commuter routes, such as along Dominion Rd and Sandringham Rd, and for Ritchie Transport's main trunk Northern Express service to be extended from Albany to Silverdale.

Extra ferries would also be pressed into service, although trains were already running at maximum capacity.

But Mr Edmonds said there was a limit to how many extra buses could be obtained to make up for the 650-strong NZ Bus fleet, which normally carries about 130,000 passengers a day, including 9500 schoolchildren.

He said there would not be enough to cover NZ Bus school runs, meaning parents and caregivers would have to think ahead in making alternative travel arrangements.

NZ Bus says it agreed to all union demands at mediated talks last week, only to have the resulting deal rejected by the drivers on Monday.

Operating chief Shane McMahon said the company had "given everything we had" and he feared that the escalation in the dispute was designed to cause maximum possible impact on his customers at a time when public transport was growing and confidence in the reliability of services increasing.

First Union assistant secretary Karl Andersen said the drivers had cast a democratic vote in pursuit of a "living wage" from a company which made a $46 million profit in the last financial year and had in recent weeks agreed to a 3.8 per cent rise in its directors' fees.

- NZ Herald

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