'Gloves are off': Wellington bus drivers ready to strike as pay negotiations reach impasse

Wellington bus drivers are preparing to strike after reaching an impasse in pay negotiations with NZ Bus.
The Tramways Union has circled Monday, April 19, as a potential deadline day, which could trigger industrial action.

A drivers strike would impact commuters across most of Wellington city, the eastern parts of the city, where NZ Bus runs a lot of routes.

The negotiations come just one week after drivers struck a deal with Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi NZTA that would see the Government top up wages to lift the base rate for drivers from $19.40 an hour to the living wage of $22.10.

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NZ Bus wants to move Wellington drivers on to the same collective agreement as its Auckland drivers, which has a higher base rate but lower penal rates and one week less annual leave.

Tramways Union declined the offer outright, refusing to even put the offer to its members.

Drivers in Wellington are fiercely protective of several highly valued benefits in their current collective agreement, including double pay after midnight, time and a half on weekends, and strict controls around hours of work without additional compensation.

Bus drivers held a raucous protest on Cuba Street, Wellington on Labour Day during their push for the Living Wage.

We are at an impasse, Tramways Union secretary Kevin OSullivan said. It will get messy quickly... Its a vastly inferior agreement, and were not going to do it.

OSullivan said drivers were prepared to strike in April if the proposed agreement was not dramatically improved.

All the gloves are off...were not going to sit back and watch our agreement collapse, he said.

A bus drivers strike would particularly affect the eastern suburbs of Wellington.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Daran Ponter said a bus drivers strike would particularly affect the eastern parts of the city, where NZ Bus runs a lot of routes.

They need to negotiate harder to sort their issues out, he said.

Id absolutely urge them to come together, and I feel reasonably confident they can do that.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for March 31.

NZ Bus chief executive Jay Zmijewski said there was no further comment he could make while negotiations were ongoing.


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