NZ Bus pay dispute resolved

Yay some good news at last in the long running pay dispute between NZ Bus and their drivers. The two parties have finally come to an arrangement which means no more threats of strikes or industrial action.

NZ Bus making progress in culture change
NZ Bus has been in negotiations with representatives of the Auckland Tramways Union and First Union for the past 6 months to agree a new Collective Agreement (CA) for their members.

“NZ Bus continues to make great progress as it moves forward with its investment programme in Health and Safety, Training, new and upgraded facilities and new fleet” says Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus

NZ Bus is pleased to announce that at ratification meetings held last week, Tramways and First Union members voted to accept the new Collective Agreement.

“ A significant effort has been underway in this business over the last few years to reshape the Values and deliver on our commitment to “RELIABILITY” to our customers, staff, partners and shareholders and this will continue at speed with a new collective agreement in place in Auckland” Mr. McMahon concluded.

NZ bus is delighted that the offer to staff has been supported and would like to thank customers for their patience and understanding.

NZ Bus and Union issues drag on

One thing that came out on the weekend was that the bus drivers once again rejected the latest offer from NZ Bus. Here is the recent press release issued today by the company.

Mediation Confirms Final Offer

NZ Bus has been involved in negotiations with Tramways and First Union since May this year to agree a new Collective Agreement.
At Mediation today the Company confirmed its final offer. It has now reached agreement with the unions twice on what terms of the new collective should be. Both those agreements have been accepted by the unions and recommended by them to the members. The CTU have also been involved and Helen Kelly has recommended acceptance.

The latest recommendation for a settlement was accepted by about half the unions’ members in a ballot last week. Unfortunately, because the unions require a 60% vote the deal was not ratified.

The unions and the company returned to mediation today to discuss how to get past the problem that the on two occasions now deals which have been struck at the table, and recommended and endorsed by the unions, have not been supported by enough of their members. There comes a point where we cannot continue to increase the offer because we become uncompetitive.

It appears that some drivers will simply not accept that a fair or final deal has been struck until they have tested the company by taking industrial action. This is frustrating for both the company and the unions.

At mediation today the company again re-affirmed that it has made its best offer. Unfortunately, it appears that industrial action may now follow.

NZ Bus appreciates the work that the unions, and the CTU have been doing. They have achieved a position for their members where they will be the highest paid in bus drivers in Auckland. The company has already said that if there is any other collective agreement offered by a major operator in Auckland, then the company would consider it instead. In fact, the company and the unions know that this is the best deal available for drivers.

“Unfortunately there is an element within the unions that sees strike action as a key element in any negotiation. They seem hell bent on following that formula again this time around, which is a real shame because it’s our customers that pay the price” says Shane McMahon, COO NZ Bus

“It is time for the members to support their unions and bring these negotiations to a conclusion without inconveniencing the public or the half of the union membership that voted to accept the deal” concluded Mr. McMahon.

Key Facts:
Average Annual Income for bus drivers = $46,000
Average hours worked per driver = 43 per week
Drivers are paid overtime rates for hours worked above 40 hours per week
Almost all drivers employed in full time roles, and over half (525) work straight shifts
Under the agreement reached between company and unions drivers pay rate would rise to $20 per hour plus allowances – making them the highest paid drivers in Auckland
In addition to hourly rate, drivers also get allowances for broken shifts, meals and certain additional duties
Total wage bill for drivers per annum = $46million

At this stage we don’t know what industrial action is planned by the union but reports in the Herald the other day suggested that it could possibly include running services but not collecting fares. While that might boost patronage for those days, I just really want to see this issue resolved.

Bus strike cancelled

Great news

Strike averted as NZ Bus and Unions reach agreement

NZ Bus, the Tramways Union and First Union are very pleased to announce that following a last ditch meeting this morning they have reached a proposed settlement for the Collective Employment Agreement covering bus drivers and service staff in Auckland.

All planned Industrial action including the strike on Monday 24th September has been called off and all Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Waka Pacific and LINK bus services including school bus services will now operate as normal.

“This agreement will see NZ Bus drivers amongst the highest paid in the industry” said Shane McMahon, Chief Operating Officer, NZ Bus.

“We are delighted that agreement has been reached and changes to the ratification process agreed. NZ Bus is committed to continue to invest in our people and resources to see public transport in Auckland grow” continued Mr. McMahon.

“We welcome this development and are pleased that the buses will be on the road to carry the travelling public this Monday” said Gary Froggatt from Tramways Union.

“Today’s meeting was positive, and we can see a way forward with some unity between the bus unions and the CTU, and NZ Bus,” said Karl Andersen from First Union

Well done to all parties for being able to come to an agreement.

Monday’s bus strike – PT alternatives

So unless there’s a miraculous fix to the ongoing labour dispute between NZ Bus and its drivers, it seems as though all NZ Bus services will not run this coming Monday and every subsequent Monday for the next eight weeks. That means no buses at all – including school buses – if your service is operated by any of the following:

  • Metrolink
  • GoWest
  • Waka Pacific
  • North Star
  • Link (City, Inner or Outer)

All up NZ Bus services account for just over half of all public transport journeys in Auckland, which I guess gives us the opportunity to look at things from a “glass half full” approach and note that half of Auckland’s public transport will still be running. So by part of Auckland, here’s a bit of advice about how you can still catch public transport:

North:

Ritchies and Birkenhead Transport buses will still be operating, as will the ferries. Birkenhead buses serve the Onewa Road catchment, both to Beachhaven and up Glenfield Road. If you’re on the western side of the North Shore perhaps try to get to somewhere on a route operated by Birkenhead Transport. The 966 bus travels via Ponsonby to Newmarket – a useful replacement for some Inner Link journeys.

Ritchies operate the Northern Express, which will still run. They also operate a number of other routes to areas like Northcote, Bayswater and  a number of other routes around Albany. The park and ride stations at Albany and Constellation are likely to be pretty packed so perhaps look at finding a different route operated by Ritchies and parking on a street somewhere along its course.

Ferries operate from Devonport, Stanley Bay, Bayswater, Northcote Point and Birkenhead Point.

West:

Two main options out here: a Ritchies bus from places like Henderson and further to the northwest – or catch the train. Ritchies buses from the west also run along Great North Road between Pt Chevalier and the city centre, which makes them a good option for people in the western part of the isthmus trying to get to work/uni.

If you’re catching the train, expect it to be pretty busy. Western Line trains only run once every 15 minutes at peak times, but this service level also runs for most of the time during the day (aside from a few hours around midday). Urban Express also run services from Green Bay and Blockhouse Bay along Blockhouse Bay Road and then Great North Road into the city – another good option for people in the western part of the isthmus.

Isthmus:

Options here are relatively limited in many places outside the catchment of the rail system, but some replacement buses will be operating along Dominion and Sandringham Road (check with Auckland Transport for confirmation about times over the next day or two). Otherwise try to perhaps get to the Great South Road or Great North Road corridors where you can benefit from Ritchies or Howick and Eastern Buses coming from the far southeast or far west areas. Some Howick and Eastern express buses pass through the Eastern Suburbs although I’m not sure whether they stop there.

South/Southeast:

Rail for the south and Howick and Eastern in the southeast are you two main options here. The 380 bus between the Airport and Manukau, via Papatoetoe train station, is generally frequent and reliable and could be useful in getting you to the rail network. Otherwise it’s fairly lean pickings unfortunately.

I’ll probably be walking. Further ideas are most welcome!

Bus Strikes back on

Now this is just getting silly. Last week the bus drivers unions agreed to a deal with NZ Bus which saw their planned strikes called off but interestingly the bus drivers who met today decided to reject that offer. I don’t know what they are now demanding but it is very odd for the union leaders themselves to agree to a deal and recommend it but then have the members turn it down. This of course leaves commuters in the lurch once again and happens at a pretty critical time for PT in this city with things like the new bus network about to be consulted on which will also mean new contracts for the bus operators. Here is the press release from NZ Bus and understandably they seem frustrated:

Bus Drivers Vote Down Offer to be Highest Paid in Auckland

In a bizarre twist today drivers voted against the wage offer from NZ Bus, which was recommended by Tramways and First Union leadership and supported by Helen Kelly at the Council of Trade Unions.

Today’s ratification meeting was attended by only 517 of the 818 union drivers with more than one third not attending the meeting.

The parties met last Wednesday in mediation where NZ Bus, Tramways and First Union leaders agreed financial terms for ratification at today’s meeting. Both Tramways and First Union leadership agreed the offer was a good one and that they would positively recommend the offer at today’s ratification meeting.

Tramways and First Union had been engaged in industrial action ‘working to rule’ and NZ Bus had worked hard to minimise the impact on customers.

“ We managed to have the unions lift full blown strike action by giving them what they asked for in order to prevent impact on customers and today they turn around and reject an offer the union executive endorsed” Shane McMahon concluded.

“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”, said Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus.

NZ Bus operates Metrolink, City Link, Inner Link, Outer Link, North Star, Waka Pacific and Go West brands in Auckland. NZ Bus would like to apologise to customers in advance should the unions choose to escalate industrial action.

No Bus Strikes

Some great news has just come out that NZ Bus and the Tramways Union have come to an agreement over their industrial dispute which means that there won’t be any strikes, something that would have severely dented the reputation of public transport right at a time when we are about to start talking the most positive change in for buses in decades. Here is the NZ Bus press release:

NZ Bus wage talks reaches agreement at negotiations

NZ Bus, the Tramways Union and First Union are very pleased to announce that they have reached a proposed settlement for the Collective Employment Agreement covering bus drivers and service staff in Auckland today which will be put to union members on Monday for ratification.

Helen Kelly, the President of the CTU, who has been assisting the parties, said she is very pleased an agreement has been reached and is committed to seeing through all opportunities this settlement provides.

Both parties have been involved in constructive dialogue since May and acknowledge the significant progress made in the agreement, which will be recommended to members.

Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus said “we have built a strong relationship with the unions and we will continue to invest in the business to see public transport in Auckland grow”.

The settlement includes a commitment for the parties to work together to use the agreement to build the best bus company in New Zealand.

All industrial action has now been lifted and members will meet on Monday between 11am and 1pm for the ratification meeting.

Bus Dispute Finally Over

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.

Where to now for the bus dispute?

Well the bus drivers have rejected the latest pay offer:

Union negotiators say they will regroup and assess their next step after the Auckland bus drivers and cleaners they represent today rejected a pay offer from their employer.

The offer of an 11.5 per cent pay rise spread over three years was contained in an agreement reached last Friday between New Zealand Bus and the four unions making up the Auckland Combined Unions.

The unions’ bargaining unit had recommended the new combined employment agreement (CEA), which would have covered about 900 staff, be ratified.

However, combined unions spokesman Karl Andersen said it was voted down “by quite a large majority” of the 700-800 at a meeting today.

Members considered the offer was “just not enough”, he said.

Mr Andersen admitted he was “mildly surprised” by the outcome of the vote.

“We were recommending it as the best deal we could get,” he said.

“I guess you could say I was mildly surprised that it did not get over the line.”

The bargaining unit would meet again over the next few days, but Mr Andersen did not know when negotiations would resume with NZ Bus.

“We need to have a regroup ourselves and reassess where we’re going and what we’re going to present to the company.”

There was no immediate threat to bus services, which were disrupted last month for several days when negotiations between the parties stalled, he said.

The pay offer in the CEA envisaged increases of 4.2 per cent, 4 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively over the next three years.

NZ Bus operations general manager Zane Fulljames said the decision to turn it down “beggars belief”.

“It is immensely disappointing to our customers, our people and the business,” he said in a statement.

“The unions agreed to take and recommend the offer to their members. This did not happen.”

Mr Fulljames said the company would offer no further comment until it had had time to consider its position over the next few days.

NZ Bus and the unions, who represent most of the bus drivers and cleaners in the Auckland region, have been in negotiations since May.

The employees concerned work for the Metrolink, Go West, Waka Pacific, North Star, Link and City Circuit bus services.

It will be interesting to see if NZ Bus has learned from the utter public relations disaster they caused last time, by locking out the drivers for simply doing their jobs, by ‘working to rule’. If the drivers work to rule again – it will be interesting to see what happens.

Lockout Ends – buses back tomorrow

Ah finally, the lockout has ended. The NZ Herald reports:

Buses will be back on Auckland roads tomorrow after seven days of disrupted service.

NZ Bus has agreed to suspend the lock out of staff and the union has agreed to suspend industrial action.

“This afternoon the unions have contacted us and as a result both parties have mutually suspended industrial action so that buses can be back on the road from tomorrow,” NZ Bus General Manager Zane Fulljames said.

The agreement means a week of disruption for commuters will end for now.

This morning bus drivers met to consider an Employment Relations Authority recommendation, the details of which have not been revealed.

But about 500 bus drivers passed a resolution to suspend their work-to-rule notice if Infratil-owned NZ Bus ended their lock-out.

Yesterday the company said if bus drivers ended their work-to-rule notice by 1.30pm today, it would end the lock-out.

However the meeting went until 1.40pm and union spokesman Karl Andersen was earlier waiting for the company to formally accept the drivers’ resolution.

It is also understood that the company made a revised offer to the 875 drivers and cleaners involved in the dispute. The offer was based on the secret recommendation from the ERA.

About 500 drivers and cleaners turned up to this morning’s meeting and the proposal was rejected by 95 per cent of voters.

The exact details of the revised offer are not known.

Mr Andersen acknowledged the recommendation as a good basis to resume bargaining with NZ Bus.

Mr Fulljames said “it was positive” that both parties had agreed to return to facilitation led by the Employment Relations Authority tomorrow.

I guess because the union rejected this latest pay offer there is still the possibility that there will be further ‘work to rule’ notices and potentially further lockouts (would NZ Bus be stupid enough to go through this again I wonder?), but at least for now there has been some sense on both sides that there is no need for all of us bus users to suffer while the minor details of a pay deal are sorted out.

Today was quite a mission for me, as I dropped my daughter Amalia at school in the morning and then drove to Kingsland to park, and then catch the train into the city.  I was quite impressed that Veolia had the sense to be selling tickets on the train station platform, to reduce the number of people avoiding buying a ticket and also speeding up the process once you’re on the train. They’ve had a pretty damn busy week on the trains, by the sound of things. My 9.15am train at Kingsland was not packed, but was certainly standing room only by the time I got on it – which I assume is fairly unusual for something running at that time of the morning. Then in the evening I obviously had to catch the train out to Kingsland, although I didn’t do so until well after the evening peak (7pm train). Even then, I would say that train was pretty close to having all its seats taken by the time we had left Boston Road – once again pretty impressive in terms of numbers.

However, while it was a bit of a novelty to catch a train (it’s a been a while) I must say in general I am very much looking forward to my bus being back in action tomorrow morning. Let’s hope that’s the end of the lockouts for a good while yet. Oh, and I was on the radio this morning.

Bus Lockout – an end in sight?

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.