We finally saw a bit of movement in the ongoing bus lockout today, with ARTA taking the hint from ARC Chairman Mike Lee and putting the hard word on NZ Bus themselves:
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) has written to New Zealand Bus asking the company, in the interests of Auckland commuters, to provide proposals to resolve the current dispute by 5pm today.
ARTA’s CEO, Fergus Gammie says, “Generally ARTA does not involve itself in employment disputes however we are very concerned about the impact this conflict is having on our customers.
“In the interests of Auckland’s travelling public, it is critical that this dispute now be resolved as soon as possible and that service levels are fully restored immediately.
“ARTA requires NZ Bus’ proposals by 5pm today for the immediate resumption of contracted services.
“If NZ Bus does not provide a satisfactory proposal by that time ARTA will progress actions available to it under its contracts to restore NZ Bus services to Auckland”.
Mr Gammie said ARTA has no further comment to make at this time.
That press release came out at 3.30pm this afternoon, and I must say it was about damn time too. While Mike Lee is to be commended for getting the ball rolling yesterday by threatening to cancel NZ Bus’s contract if the lockout nonsense continued for much longer, in the end it is ARTA who has the direct contract link with NZ Bus – and therefore it is ARTA who has the ability to actually do something to put this situation to an end.
The response from NZ Bus was fairly swift, saying that they will lift the lockout on Thursday morning (apparently it’s too difficult to get everything going again in time for tomorrow – go figure?), but only on the grounds that the Union will end its work-to-rule threat by 1.30pm tomorrow. The Herald has a bit more detail:
NZ Bus tonight offered to lift its lockout of Auckland bus drivers so buses could resume first thing on Thursday morning. But it demands that by 1.30pm tomorrow the unions have to lift their work to rule (which the company calls strike notice).
The company also wants the union to agree to work with the employment relations authority facilitator James Wilson to reach a ratified settlement.
Mr Wilson is due to make a judgement in the dispute at 10am tomorrow.
NZ Bus’ GM of operations, Zane Fulljames, said it was impossible for buses to resume tomorrow.
Since Friday, the company and the coalition of four unions that make up the Auckland Combined Unions have been in facilitation with the employment authority to resolve their five-month long pay dispute.
Mr Fulljames said the facilitator has outlined a basis on which he considers a settlement can be reached.
Now by the sounds of it, this is just the same old “we won’t end the lockout until you lift the work to rule threat” that we’ve been hearing from NZ Bus over the last week. So I would fully understand if the unions didn’t agree to this, but it puts a bit of a timeline on matters – and hopefully there might actually be some agreement on the pay deal before Thursday so we can get on with life.
As I said in my post yesterday, this whole situation has now gone on for far too long. While part of me has a rather perverse desire to see this continue up to a point where NZ Bus’s contracts are cancelled just to punish them for being such complete utter idiots over this whole matter, realistically the best outcome is for everything to go back to normal as soon as possible. This strike has already done untold damage to the image of Auckland’s bus system, and I think there’s a good chance that some people will have given up on public transport for good as a result of the lockout.