Hopes for a breakthrough in a pay dispute involving Auckland bus drivers have been dashed, and major disruption for 80,000 passengers looks inevitable.
About 800 drivers called a stop-work meeting for two hours from 11am on Friday and rejected the latest offer of a 10.4% pay rise over three years.
This followed last-minute negotiations earlier in the week to prevent services grinding to a halt. Their employers, NZ Bus, had said they would lock out drivers in response to a work to rule.
Workers earlier rejected a 9.9% pay rise over three years and sought an annual deal, including a 4% rise this year.
Unions representing the drivers say NZ Bus can afford to pay them better wages - it just doesn't want to.
Karl Anderson, of the Auckland Combined Unions, told Checkpoint workers believe NZ Bus can improve on the latest offer, as the company admits its revenue and patronage is up.
"There is a lot of sympathy for the plight of the drivers - they're low-paid, they work terribly long hours, they've got a lot of responsibilities.
"They've got an employer who can afford to pay better wages but simply doesn't want to. By their own admission in their own publications their patronage is up, their revenue is up - they can afford to pay."
Mr Anderson says NZ Bus has told him it is not willing to negotiate further and believes the company is prepared to lock workers out.
Unions and drivers will meet on Sunday to further discuss their options and say industrial action is a strong possibility.
Best offer, says NZ Bus
NZ Bus says it wants drivers to re-consider the pay issue carefully as the company has made its best offer.
General manager of operations Zane Fulljames told Checkpoint it will wait for the outcome of the meeting.
"We're bitterly disappointed and somewhat frustrated for the company and Auckland commuters that they've arrived at this position.
"Our understanding is that they will meet on Sunday to decide or determine their next course of action and we're very keen to hear what they have to say on Sunday evening."
NZ Bus services include Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Waka Pacific, Link and City Circuit.