30 Apr 2019

Agreement reached on rest, meal breaks for bus drivers - union

7:20 am on 30 April 2019

Bus drivers have reached an agreement to avoid what operators said could be thousands of cancelled services when new laws on meal breaks come into force next week.

10718109 - bus driver sitting in his bus on tour

Photo: kzenon/123RF

Bus companies had warnedas many as 2500 services a day would need to be cancelled when the new rules came into effect.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill comes into force on 6 May requires employees receive two 10-minute rest breaks and a 30-minute meal break across an eight-hour day.

Some companies said the changes would mean drivers would have to take breaks in the middle of service runs, which would throw everything off schedule.

But bus companies, councils, unions and the government reached a provisional agreement in a memorandum of understanding late last week. That means all drivers get their breaks, so long as they are very flexible about when they get them.

Tramways Union Wellington secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said some drivers would need to take breaks at the beginning or end of their routes, to minimise disruption.

"The breaks will be either paid or compensated for. So the companies have worked out where breaks can be taken in duties, where they can't be taken they've been tacked onto the start or finish time of some duties. And in a small number of cases they can't be taken at all, and in those cases I do believe some services may have to be cancelled," he said.

"The government has given the parties 12 months in which to ... make the industry fully compliant with the new legislation.

Some drivers would be behind the wheel for up to four hours at a time before getting a break, Mr O'Sullivan said, meaning they would be paid for four hours and ten minutes.

Operators had found a way to incorporate a break in the longest shifts drivers currently work, which were five and a half hours long, he said.

"Very, very few" shifts that long would have no break, he said.

The bus operators would have a year to rework rosters, timetables, and add more buses and drivers, so they could fully comply with the new law.

The unions looked forward to being involved in that process, Mr O'Sullivan said.

A formal announcement on the deal is expected later this week.

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