Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

More bus strike congestion on the cards

Traffic congestion in Hobson St was heavy yesterday afternoon. Photo / Doug Sherring
Traffic congestion in Hobson St was heavy yesterday afternoon. Photo / Doug Sherring

More bus strikes could be on the way if bus companies continue to push back against demands for better wages and conditions, unions say.

Yesterday's strike saw traffic come to a standstill in some parts of the city, but with many people planning ahead and using alternative forms of transport, traffic chaos was short lived.

About 5000 bus services were cancelled when 70 per cent of Auckland's bus network was effectively shut down by more than 1200 drivers striking for better working conditions and pay from companies NZ Bus and Howick & Eastern.

Tramways Union organiser Gary Froggatt said the organisation's 1100 members were unhappy about the strike, but it was sending a message to the NZ Bus and Auckland Transport that conditions in the workplace weren't good. "I think that message has got through to the company and to AT. I understand there is going to be some negotiations next week."

A round of stopwork meetings beginning on Monday will cause disruptions again, and Mr Froggatt did not rule out subsequent strikes.

The day for the 117 Howick & Eastern drivers, represented by First Union, was exhausting, organiser Rudd Hughes said last night.

He said the object of the strike wasn't to disrupt traffic, but to get companies to come back to the table to negotiate.

There had been no progress with Howick & Eastern, however.

"We set up a walking picket and they just drove straight through."

He said it would sit down at the table with the company - but at this stage it wasn't looking good.

"We've got other things we can do apart from strike action," he said. This could include not taking fares, and not turning on consoles which are used to store ticket and route information for AT.

Calls and emails to Howick & Eastern's office were not returned, and NZ Bus manager Shane McMahon declined to comment on the impact of yesterday's strike.

Yesterday morning, commuters reported the buses that were running were packed, as were trains.

Foot traffic was reportedly heavier than usual in some parts of the city.

On Dominion Rd, police were spotted stopping drivers in bus lanes - though a spokeswoman said bus lanes were not being specifically targeted by officers.

Last night, the impact on traffic was more significant. The Southern Motorway was severely congested between the city and Manukau - putting the travel time up to 88 minutes at one stage.

Congestion also affected the Northwestern and Southwestern motorways, but the New Zealand Transport Agency described the traffic as "heavy but generally normal for a Friday peak".

- NZ Herald

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