14 Oct 2009

NZ Bus offers to lift lockout notice on drivers

6:03 am on 14 October 2009

NZ Bus has offered to lift the lockout notice in the Auckland bus drivers' industrial dispute from Thursday morning.

But unions say the offer is meaningless and does not deal with the issue of pay rates for its members.

NZ Bus says the offer made on Tuesday is conditional on Auckland Combined Unions lifting their work to rule notice.

The unions issued the notice last week after rejecting the latest offer by NZ Bus of a 10.5% pay increase over three years.

In response, NZ Bus locked workers out, saying services would remain suspended until the notice of industrial action was withdrawn.

NZ Bus operates many major routes in the region and tens of thousands of commuters have been forced to find other means of transport since 700 buses were taken out of service last Thursday.

Services affected are those run by Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Waka Pacific, Link and City Circuit.

The latest offer by NZ Bus does not appear to be an advance on its previous stance. However, general manager of operations Zane Fulljames says it is a genuine attempt to break the impasse.

But unions say the company's latest offer is meaningless. Spokesperson Karl Andersen says it is no offer at all, as it would simply turn the clock back to last week without dealing with the underlying issue of pay rates for drivers.

Mr Andersen says the unions have always made it clear that drivers were going to work according to the company's operations manual - not go on strike.

NZ Bus and the unions have been meeting with a facilitator from the Employment Relations Authority this week in an effort to reach an agreement over pay.

The facilitator will announce his decision over how the parties should resolve the dispute on Wednesday morning.

The unions say drivers will then meet at Alexandra Park to discuss the recommendations.

On Tuesday the Auckland Regional Transport Authority issued an ultimatum to NZ Bus, telling it to come up with a constructive response by 5pm, or it would invoke legal action.