NZ Bus suspends Auckland services, potentially for weeks, as industrial action continues

One of New Zealand's largest bus companies is suspending services until industrial action by drivers is resolved.

NZ Bus, which is the principal bus company for Auckland, announced on Friday that it had been advised by FIRST Union and the Tramways Union that its members proposed taking strike action between 4:30am on December 7 and 4am on December 24. 

During this period, the roughly 800 drivers intend not to collect fares or work the electronic ticketing systems.

The unions are calling for a fairer contract process, saying the current model is resulting in drivers having to take pay cuts and work in poor conditions. First Union and Tramway members who work for Go Bus - another bus company - last week committed to not collecting fares.

But NZ Bus says it "cannot afford to operate while no fares are collected".

"Unfortunately, this means that NZ Bus will need to suspend all services until this industrial action is resolved, which means that striking workers will be suspended for this period," a statement said.

"NZ Bus is unable to pay driver wages for the sustained period of time indicated in the strike notices, while no fares are being collected."

The company has a long-term contract with Auckland Transport with a 36 percent market share.

"NZ Bus is contractually obliged to collect fares on behalf of Auckland Transport. If our drivers do not collect fares, then we cannot afford to operate the buses," said chief executive Barry Hinkley.

He said that the company was open to finding a solution with the unions and wanted to meet with them on Monday. Hinkley said NZ Bus drivers are currently the highest paid of any urban bus drivers in Auckland. 

"We have a higher base rate and we also make sure that overtime is compensated for too. We value our team and we want them to be happy working for NZ Bus. 

"We are in communication with Auckland Transport to ensure that passengers understand the situation and we apologise to those affected by the disruption. We would like to see this situation fixed as quickly as possible."

Auckland Transport released a statement confirming the suspension and said an offer from NZ Bus to the unions on Thursday had not been accepted.

"NZ Bus operates some of Auckland Transport’s busiest routes along Dominion, Sandringham, Mt Eden and Manukau Roads, as well as other routes across the wider Auckland region and the LINK services."

More information about what routes are affected can be found on Auckland Transport's social pages and website.

Jared Abbott, FIRST Union secretary for Transport, Logistics, Operations and Manufacturing, said drivers had received massive support over the last week.

"We've had constructive conversations with drivers and operators over the last week, as well as stakeholders like Auckland Transport, and we're hopeful that a resolution isn't too far away," he said.

"We're hoping that negotiations over the coming weeks will be focused on lifting the standards for all Auckland bus drivers and fixing the broken system that put them in this position."