A third of Auckland bus services could grind to a halt during March Madness after contract negotiations between NZ Bus and two unions failed to reach an agreement yesterday. Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt today said it was now up to 800 bus drivers to decide the next step, saying he could not rule out industrial action during March.
He said NZ Bus had offered 68 cents to take the hourly pay rate to $22.75 and no reduction for 14-hour split shifts.
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Buses are expected to play a key role in March Madness, which comes about from the fewest people taking holidays and resumption of the academic year.
Auckland Transport has added an extra 5000 seats on buses at peak times and has six double-decker buses on standby from Monday.
Disruption in the city centre ramps up another notch on Sunday when a major intersection at the corner of Wellesley St, Mayoral Drive and Albert St is closed for construction work on the City Rail Link.
NZ Bus has been in talks with the Tramways Union and First Union since December over pay and conditions, including 14-hour shifts broken up by several hours of unpaid downtime between the morning and evening peaks.
Froggatt said the issue of March Madness was of concern to the union.
"We don't want to do this. We wish there was a solution but it is up to the membership."
Froggatt did not know when the bus drivers would decide on whether to strike or not.
NZ Bus chief commercial officer Scott Thorne said the company is keen to avoid any disruption to customers and hopes this can be achieved through ongoing constructive dialogue.
He said the company welcomes further discussions with the unions, but given the status of negotiations would not be making further comment.
The bus drivers, who make up 35 per cent of the city's services under contract to Auckland Transport, planned industrial action ahead of Christmas before Auckland councillors intervened to try to resolve the dispute.
Froggatt said the issue of long shifts and downtime are tied up with a government review of the Public Transport Operating Model involving unions, council and bus companies, which is some time away.