Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Bus delays as action begins

Commuters face disruption during industrial action over toilet breaks, working hours and wages.

Some commuters at a major bus stop on Wellesley St West have already started noticing delays as bus drivers take industrial action and "work to rule".

About 135,000 Auckland commuters are being warned to expect delays from today until further notice.

The action will cause disruptions to Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Waka Pacific, City Link and Outer Link bus services. School buses will not be affected.


One bus already 12 minutes late was still 16 more minutes away at 9.03am, according to the stop's live board.

Tim Berry waited 25 minutes for his bus to arrive and take him to Takapuna. He said buses appeared on the board then disappeared without appearing. He also noticed more buses that were not in service.

"I'm just going to meet my parents but if I'd known there would be this delay I might have got an über, but that's a bit expensive."

At the same stop Ellie House had been waiting about 15 minutes for a bus but was getting worried because scheduled buses kept disappearing from the live board.

Both Ms House and Mr Berry had not seen any signage notifying them of the industrial action and that there may be delays.

The bus drivers claim their employer, NZ Bus, is increasing their working hours without providing toilet breaks. They're also negotiating a pay rise.

Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt said until an agreement has been reached, drivers will follow the company's rules to the letter instead of taking shortcuts to make sure their service kept to the timetable. The action starts at 4am.

The rules include taking a 10-minute break at the end of each trip to conduct terminal duties, using a bathroom if needed and not waiting for their buses to be refuelled at the depots.

On the Link Buses, which are on a continuous loop, drivers will ask passengers to leave the bus while the driver uses a bathroom if needed, instead of waiting until the end of their five-hour shift.

In 2009, during a previous "work to rule" action, bus drivers were locked out of the depots by NZ Bus for seven days during a bitter pay dispute.

Phil Morgan has been driving buses for 11 years and said it's a stressful and tiring job that can often make his workday spread over 13 hours. Drivers get a four-hour break between shifts but this often wasn't long enough to get home so drivers just hung out at the depots, he said.

"We're not being craven about this at all. It's not about wages, it's about conditions.
"At the end of the day, you're dog tired. You go home, have dinner and go to bed - there's no time for family. Then you've got to be up about 4.30 the next morning."

Mr Morgan said one of the most frustrating parts of the job was the lack of bathroom breaks and toilets at the depots.

"Holding it in, as it were, can cause health problems."

NZ Bus chief operations officer Shane McMahon said that since the end of last year it had had four days of talks with the bus unions and had put a 1.7 per cent real wage increase on the table but that had not been accepted. He was unsure when discussions would next take place.

But he said NZ Bus would be monitoring the industrial action to make sure there would be as little disruption as possible to passengers.

"If they're just following the rules, we don't think it will have too much of an impact."

According to the strike notice, from this morning until further notice, among other instructions, bus drivers:

• Will at the end of every timetable trip, take 10 minutes to complete terminal duties including lost property checks, using toilet facilities if required, performing stretching exercises and preparing the bus for the return journey.
• Will, if there are no toilet facilities available at any terminal at the time required, take the bus to the nearest public toilet or nearest bus depot.
• Will wait for a safe gap in traffic before moving out from a bus stop.
• Will wait for passengers to be seated before moving the bus.
• Will not carry more passengers than allowed by the bus loading certificate.
• Will not work or drive more than 5-hours without taking a 30-minute meal break.
• Will not start any timetable trip that cannot be completed within the 5-hour time limit.
• Will not work or drive more than 13 hours in any one day.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said the action was between the company and the unions so he did not want to comment.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 26 Oct 2016 22:22:23 Processing Time: 595ms