Over 800 FIRST Union and NZ Tramways Union members who drive buses for Auckland’s largest bus company, NZ Bus, will be joining striking Go Bus drivers from Monday next week in not collecting passenger fares, meaning around half of all Auckland bus trips will be free to the public, FIRST Union said today.
NZ Bus drivers gathered yesterday in Auckland and voted not to accept the company’s settlement offer, instead deciding to join their colleagues from Go Bus, who are currently taking partial strike action until Christmas Eve by refusing to collect fares on buses departing from the company’s Mangere and East Tamaki depots.
The unions point to systemic issues resulting from the flawed procurement model for urban bus operators, PTOM (Public Transport Operating Model), as underlying both sets of bus drivers’ concerns. Initially, NZ Bus drivers will be taking this strike action for one week, beginning on Monday 2nd December.
Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Operations and Logistics, said a resolution will require Auckland Transport - the contractee of both bus companies - to be involved in finding a solution.
"All of the concerns we raised about the effect PTOM would have if it went ahead have already come true in Auckland," said Mr Abbott. "It’s not good enough to just shrug our shoulders and say it's here now and that's that - drivers are struggling, the industry is facing a shortage, and we seem to be the only ones proposing solutions."
"Yesterday, drivers from the biggest bus operator in Auckland said "enough is enough" and voted for a free fares strike to let the company and Auckland Transport know that they won’t be the casualties of a system designed to disadvantage them."
"A free fares strike is a positive way of drawing attention to the need to resolve the problems caused by PTOM while engaging the public and causing no disruption to passengers."
"Go Bus drivers, who kicked off their free fares strike the day before yesterday, say the South Auckland public has been completely supportive and reiterate that they have received no criticism from anyone but their employer, who has as usual gone above and beyond in attempts to frighten and divide the drivers - they’re not having a bar of it."
"For passengers, next week might be a good time to hop on the bus and get your Christmas shopping done."