14 Dec 2015

Unions hope to avoid bus driver strike

1:16 pm on 14 December 2015

Unions representing Auckland bus drivers are confident a strike proposed for next week can be avoided following talks with NZ Bus today.

A bus on Auckland's Queen Street

A bus on Auckland's Queen Street Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Ballot papers were sent out to about 1000 of the Auckland Tramway Union and First Union's members today, proposing staff take a city-wide two-hour strike so they could attend a stop-work meeting next Tuesday.

NZ Bus sent an email on Friday which said staff who refused to work as rostered could face disciplinary action, First Union organiser Rudd Hughes said.

"So we thought, if they're not going to let us have the stop-work, which we are entitled to, then we would go down another road which would enable our members to get along to a meeting," Mr Hughes said.

The stop-work and proposed strike was planned for 11:30am to 1:30pm on Tuesday 22 December.

The ballot will run for three days and the result would be known on Friday.

In the meantime, Mr Hughes said unions were meeting NZ Bus today and he was hopeful a strike could be avoided altogether.

Mr Hughes said the stop-work meeting was needed so staff could decide on the next step to be taken in pay negotiations currently underway with NZ Bus.

"The company has offered us a 0.75 percent pay increase but in terms of a straight pay increase we are looking for 2.95 percent, and there are some other things on the table as well."

Mr Hughes said he did not think a strike three days before Christmas would affect bus passengers too badly because it would occur during the middle of the day and there would be a skeleton staff to ensure some bus services would continue to run.

NZ Bus to meet with unions

A meeting with the unions would be held this afternoon, the chief operations officer for NZ Bus Tonia Haskell said.

She said efforts would be made to roster on non-unionised staff at the time of the planned stop-work meeting.

"We have been drawing up a list today of people who will be rostered on and we are going to encourage people to swap their shifts if they really want to attend the meeting," Ms Haskell said.

She was not sure how many staff were needed to provide bus services during the meeting.

NZ Bus had about 1200 staff in Auckland, 1000 of which were union members.

Ms Haskell said she had not seen the email sent to the unions on Friday.

"Members are allowed to attend union meetings, in fact they are encouraged to attend them. The collective agreement we have with the unions for meeting such as this in the middle of bargaining, we are required to run normal services."

She said this was a contested issue with the unions who were prepared to offer a skeleton staff to provide minimal services during the meeting.

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