NZ Bus denies locking out unionised drivers

updated By D'Angelo Martin

NZ Bus released a press statement yesterday regarding the suspension of its unionised bus drivers. NZ Bus CEO, Barry Hinkley, says, 

"There is no lock out. The bus drivers can come back to work any time, they just need to collect fares so we can afford to run the services. Our contract with AT stipulates that we are responsible for collecting fares."

Auckland commuters are still having to find alternative means of transport to their jobs today. The NZ Bus suspension has now reached its fourth day. As First Union drivers wait for the opportunity to work, they took to the streets today to voice their frustrations.

Louisa Jones, First Union spokesperson says, "Our bus drivers basically want to have fair wages, at the moment their on up to $22 an hour. It's not enough money for them to live on and they were doing really really long shifts. So they're doing about 12 hr shifts everyday but unfortunately in the middle of that 12 hr shift is a 4 hr unpaid break."

Jones explained that NZ Bus operates just over a third of Auckland city's bus services. Jones remains hopeful that a "more reasonable" outcome is made for these bus drivers.

"Ministry of Social Development can assist with urgent needs but essentially drivers are without income. We do what we can to support members urgently but it is what it is and NZ Bus needs to put them back in to work."

"NZ Bus has made this decision, I believe, to weaken the union membership. So that people will cave and come back to work with just a 2% increase. Unfortunately that was a foolish mistake because actually it has made our membership way stronger."

CEO Hinkley concludes, "We look forward to further negotiations with the unions so that we can resolve this matter as swiftly as possible and get Aucklanders back on the buses and drivers back to work."