Once a week strike from bus drivers likely

By Alastair Bull, NZ Newswire Updated September 17, 2012, 3:26 pm

Drivers for Auckland's main bus service look set to strike one day a week after rejecting a pay offer their unions recommended they accept.

The Tramways Union and First Union, which represents about 820 drivers who work for NZ Bus, last Wednesday agreed to a 6.6 per cent pay rise over the next 27 months, and for a $20 per hour pay rate to apply by December.

Drivers called in to work on their day off would also be paid time and a half their usual wage.

But the deal was rejected by drivers at a stopwork meeting on Monday.

"The vote to reject the offer was not by a huge margin," First Union negotiator Karl Andersen told NZ Newswire.

"We thought there was a show that that offer would go through, but we were wrong. We had a secret ballot, and that's the ultimate test."

Though the rejection of the contract offer was not by much, Mr Andersen said the vote to take industrial action "was almost unanimous".

He said industrial action was likely to follow an original plan of one day's strike action a week and working strictly to contract rules on the other days.

Mr Andersen said the drivers' biggest issue was that the pay rate was insufficient.

"We've got drivers telling us they can't live off those wages," he said.

Mr Andersen said the unions were keen on returning to negotiations.

NZ Bus chief operating officer Shane McMahon described the result as "a bizarre twist".

"Negotiating with this group is a bit like Groundhog Day, it's hugely frustrating - we worked very hard to see their point of view, worked constructively with them and reached agreement which they endorsed and then they vote it down."

Mr McMahon said only 517 of the 818 union drivers attended Monday's vote.

NZ Bus runs more than half of Auckland's bus network, including North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West and various Link buses.

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