Trade unions have expressed shock at NZ Bus' decision to lock out unionised bus drivers in Wellington and are demanding Wellington Regional Council take action.
A continuous lockout of Tramways Union members will start from 4am this Saturday. The union today announced a 24-hour strike from 4am on Friday after a breakdown in collective agreement negotiations with NZ Bus.
The bus firm is owned by Australian company Next Capital.
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff called the decision a direct attack on bus drivers in an attempt to cut pay and conditions of employment. He said such tactics by a corporate had no place in New Zealand society.
"This is a situation where a big Aussie venture capital company is trying to bludgeon a vulnerable workforce into submission with an indefinite lockout," he said.
"These tactics have no place in New Zealand and commuters who rely on these drivers will be shocked at the way drivers are being treated.
"NZ Bus have already refused an offer by the Wellington Regional Council to fund a living wage adjustment, because they want to reduce conditions of employment.
"Clearly Next Capital, the owners of NZ Bus, don't care about bus drivers, don't care about the people of Wellington and they don't care about New Zealand. They just want to increase their own profit by savaging their workforce, and clearly they'll do anything to achieve it."
He is calling on Wellington Regional Council, who contract NZ Bus to deliver services, to bring Next Capital to task over the action, which he said was an affront to the values and principles of the council.
The NZ Bus routes affected are: 2, 3 ,21, 22, 12, 12e, 13, 14, 18e, 20, 28, 30x, 31x, 33, 34, 34, 36,37,81, 83, 84, 85x, N2, N3, N8, and N88.
NZ Bus chief operating officer Jay Zmijewski said the company had been left with no option but to issue a lockout notice due to the disruption of strike action and the threat of further "surprise attack strikes" by the union.
"The strike action by the union is very disruptive for our passengers and the union's threat of further 'surprise attack strikes' means we can't guarantee the safety and reliability of our services."
He said the current offer of pay and conditions above the living wage are the best in the country, but the union had refused to budge after eight months of negotiations.
"The proposed deal takes the base rate for our drivers to well above the living wage of $22.10," he said.
"We are offering a starting rate of $23.75, which is an increase to the base wage of up to 23 percent. The deal then provides a pathway to $25 an hour over two years. The current collective agreement significantly disadvantages new drivers as we can only offer part-time work on a starting rate of $19.29 per hour.
"As it stands, the longest-serving drivers get to choose the best shifts and the longest working hours, while new recruits get what's left. Our proposal offers fulltime work for all our drivers and pay rates well above the living wage. We need to be able to offer these wage increases and fulltime shifts to fix the driver shortage in Wellington.
"We are also proposing to keep penal rates for drivers working in excess of 40 hours a week and when working rostered days off. The terms we are offering are substantially the same as the collective that already covers approximately 900 of our drivers in Auckland, which is recognised as the best terms and conditions for bus drivers in New Zealand."
Metlink expressed disappointment with the decision to deny drivers work unless they accepted the terms of NZ Bus' offer.
Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said he was surprised and concerned by the action.
"We had been working constructively with both parties on a way forward and just this morning we had a commitment from NZ Bus that they would attend a mediation process facilitated by Metlink.
"We are very concerned about the real impact this will have on thousands of passengers who will be left without services.
"Until the parties come to a resolution, passengers remain our priority and we'll keep them up to date as things change through the Metlink website and app."
He said disruption would only occur on specified NZ Bus routes and that the majority of services around the region would continue, unaffected.