Auckland's 2000 bus drivers have received an $8 million pay rise to help recruit and retain staff.
Auckland Council is funding the immediate 8 per cent rise in wages and discussions are underway with the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi for a further $8m.
The pay rise comes at a time when there is a shortage of about 400 bus drivers in Auckland, which, along with winter illness, is contributing to about 1500 bus service cancellations each weekday.
The pay hike takes the hourly rate for bus drivers from an average of $23.71 to $25.62. The other increase in the pipeline will take it to about $27.
Mayor Phil Goff said being able to recruit and retain bus drivers was critical to overcoming the shortfall, saying the 8 per cent pay rise helps recognise the importance of the job and the responsibilities bus drivers have.
"We will be working with Waka Kotahi and the Government through Auckland Transport to secure funding for further pay increases over the next year," Goff said.
AT's group manager of metro services, Darek Koper, said the $8m will be passed on to the nine bus operators who will increase wages in early August, backdated to July 1.
Koper said AT had been working with the unions since before Covid to improve bus wages, saying bus drivers have been doing it hard for some time and it had become critical to do something now.
"It's not a silver bullet, but it will definitely go some way to ensure the situation doesn't get any worse and we hope there will be further increases to make it attractive for new talent coming into the industry to fill those vacancies," he said.
Interim AT chief executive Mark Lambert said bus drivers are the backbone of the transport system in Auckland, who work hard to keep the city moving.
"We're pleased that their loyalty is being rewarded with this pay increase," he said.
Trade unions representing bus drivers welcomed the new pay increases with FIRST Union assistant general secretary Louisa Jones calling it "a major first step in retaining experienced bus drivers and attracting new people".
Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggett said more work needed to be done to improve working conditions, saying 60 per cent of bus drivers were on split shifts that can start early in the morning and go past midnight.
On top of that, he said, it was getting "tougher and tougher and tougher" for bus drivers, who have to deal with passengers who don't wear masks, don't want to pay fares, cause fights, and unruly school kids.
"If there was better training provided and people understood what they were coming into, there would be others out there who might want to take up the job," said Froggett.