It was with great relief today that I read the industrial dispute between drivers and NZ Bus is finally over. ARTA seem highly relieved too, in their press release:
ARTA pleased stability returned to bus customers
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) says it is very pleased that stability and certainty has been returned to Auckland’s bus passengers today with notification that agreement has now been reached between NZ Bus and the Auckland Combined Unions.
ARTA’s Chief Executive, Fergus Gammie says. “This has been a long and difficult road in respect of our customers who deserve stability of service. The last financial year has seen the biggest increase in public transport patronage in Auckland for the past twenty-five years. It has been frustrating for ARTA to have such a strong achievement for Auckland disrupted by this dispute.
“The agreement gives stability of service past the Rugby World Cup which will help give our customers the certainty of service they require and deserve, and a sense of relief.”
The details of the final pay settlement are fairly irrelevant from my perspective, but it gives us a chance to look back on the whole matter as it is now definitely in the past – and we won’t have to worry about any more disruptions to our bus services of that type for a while to come. From my perspective, what is interesting is that I always thought NZ Bus’s pay offer was fairly reasonable. Of course it would always be better for bus drivers to be paid more, and I am certainly not Infratil’s biggest fan in the world by a long shot, but at this time it seemed as though NZ Bus were being fairly generous before things broke down a couple of months ago.
However, what I have never got my head around is why NZ Bus made the decision to lock out their drivers and force our buses off the road for a whole week in early October. If I had been NZ Bus, and the drivers had threatened to ‘work to rule’ I would have simply said ‘go for it’. Any disruptions would have been blamed on the drivers, and NZ Bus would have come out far better off in terms of public perception. However, they didn’t choose to go down this path – which meant huge disruption (I maintain a late bus is better than no bus) a loss of over a million dollars in payments from ARTA, and a huge knock to NZ Bus’s public image. Perhaps it even put a final nail in the coffin of Snapper not getting the integrated ticketing contract?
I wonder if NZ Bus regret their course of action. I hope they do.