Unions say the move towards implementing new paid rest and meal breaks for bus drivers is off to a bad start.

Last month bus companies, unions, regional councils and the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing a grace period for after when changes to the Employment Relations Act came into effect.

A transition period of 12 months was negotiated following fears the new rules could not be implemented without cancelling thousands of bus services across the country.

But at a Tramways Union Wellington Branch AGM on Tuesday, union leaders pointed the finger at regional councils and their counterparts for not being proactive enough.

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"They were supposed to be engaging with us from the moment we signed that Memorandum of Understanding and the phone hasn't been ringing at all.

"We've already taken it up with them and said this is a bad start, we've got a lot of work to do this year", Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said.

Wellington Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw pointed out the rule change was less than a month old and they needed time to assess its impact, both on services and driver welfare.

"We understand there will be differences of opinion on how the transition path for the legislation will play out. That is why we also established a Steering Group, of which the union is an equal member. And we will be happy to listen to – and hopefully resolve - their concerns in that forum."

Wellington's bus drivers and commuters have faced their fair share of challenges over the past year with the disaster rollout of a new network in the city, disagreements between the union and operators leading to strikes, and a driver shortage.

Tramways Wellington secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said he understood it was "early days" for the MOU but there was a real sense of urgency.

"If they don't do anything like starting tomorrow, then we're going to arrive at 12 months and nothing will have changed and there will be much more serious consequences than the present fiasco."

Wellington's bus drivers and commuters have faced their fair share of challenges over the past year with the disaster rollout of a new network in the city, disagreements between the union and operators leading to strikes, and a driver shortage. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington's bus drivers and commuters have faced their fair share of challenges over the past year with the disaster rollout of a new network in the city, disagreements between the union and operators leading to strikes, and a driver shortage. Photo / Mark Mitchell

All parties in the MOU needed to be active in trying to get driver breaks implemented as soon as possible, Greater Wellington Regional councillor Daran Ponter said.

"There's no room for us to wait 12 months for that to happen. There's no excuse for any of the parties to be sitting on their hands happy that we've got to an MOU, we need to now put it into place.

"Drivers ultimately are owed those breaks it's just a matter of human dignity."

At the same union meeting on Tuesday Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced a full review of the Public Transport Operating Model, saying the competitive tendering process had triggered a "race to the bottom".

"The bus industry is struggling right now to deliver consistently reliable services, because of driver shortages, shortages that in Wellington are causing significant cancellation of services on a daily basis.

"But there really is no mystery behind the shortage. Is it so hard to understand that driving down wages and conditions makes bus driving a less attractive job than it would otherwise be?" Twyford said.