War of words between bus companies, unions ahead of strikes

Bus companies and unions have taken aim at each other through the media as a pay dispute turns increasingly ugly.

First Union announced drivers in Auckland and the Waikato would be striking on Tuesday morning after negotiations failed.

Ritchies' and Pavlovich drivers in Auckland will strike for 24 hours, while GoBus Waikato drivers will strike for four hours.

Wellington bus drivers will follow suit on Thursday and walk off the job over issues caused by the roll out of a new network. 

First Union divisional secretary Jared Abbott said the strikes had been caused by the public transport operating model (PTOM), which encouraged bus companies to cut costs.

The PTOM was introduced by the Ministry of Transport in 2013 to make the public transport industry more commercial and less reliant on subsidies.

But Ritchies' Transport director Andrew Ritchie claimed he had no idea why drivers are striking.

"That's [the union's PTOM claims] just lies, the union is just telling lies, they're incapable of doing anything else," he said.

Mr Ritchie said he's concerned about the effect a strike could have on the public.

"What I'm really concerned about is the health and safety of the public now, and I'm, actually to the point where I think we might be better to lock them out and reduce the risk back to the public," he said.

Mr Ritchie declined to explain what he meant by "lock out".

When told what Mr Ritchie said to Newshub, Mr Abbott bit back.

"I think that's disgusting, I mean Andrew Ritchie knows exactly what we're striking for we've been bargaining with him for almost two years," he said.

"The bus drivers want a fair rate of pay, we've proposed that to him. One of the problems with dealing with someone like Andrew Ritchie is that he's a liar himself."

GoBus responded to the strike in a written statement, saying passengers were "pawns" in the union's national action.

It said regardless of the offers made by GoBus, the union had always made the same demand - drivers to be paid the living wage.

The company said paying a living wage to staff without being able to recover the costs from a contracting authority would be unsustainable.


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