Fewer buses are on Wellington roads today as union members meet amid an industrial dispute they fear will mean a pay cut.
Hundreds of bus drivers are off the road to discuss the Greater Wellington Regional Council's plan to put to tender the capital's services, which are currently held solely by NZ Bus. Go Wellington and Valley Flyer buses were running limited services from 9.30am until 2pm.
The tender documents will be sent to other bus companies this month.
Tramways Union's secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said NZ Bus would probably be forced to reduce the wage of its 450 members from the current $21 per hour to $16 per hour to compete.
"Our meeting today is to put the council and any new operators on notice that if they don't agree to take on our members on their existing agreements, there will be industrial action," he said.
"We're not going to take a cut in pay to subsidise public transport - that's the Government's job."
He said a strike would have a massive impact as there was a shortage of bus drivers.
Go Bus, one of the potential bidders, said in a statement the union was "scaremongering".
"In tendering for any services throughout New Zealand, Go Bus focuses on passenger safety and service; and, in terms of the pay and conditions of drivers, our tender responses take account of competitive labour market conditions on a region-by-region basis," it said.
"By way of example, our driver pay rate in Christchurch is over $20 per hour and in Auckland we will be paying a minimum of $21 per hour plus all drivers will have the opportunity to earn even more through a performance component of their contract.
"Go Bus is disappointed in the scaremongering over the pay and conditions of drivers ahead of the Wellington tender process. Bus passengers and their drivers deserve better."
Greater Wellington Regional Council said its tender process would pick operators based on a balance of price and quality, rather than cost reduction, and will result in better routes and timetables.
"We want to assure bus drivers that as part of our quality assessment, we will reward those operators who can demonstrate strong staff engagement and welfare," it said in a statement.
"NZ Bus will retain a significant number of their services as these have already been appointed to them, ensuring continuity of employment for drivers.
"High capacity buses, plus changes to routes, will mean less congestion along the Golden Mile and more reliable travel times for everyone."
It apologised for today's disruption.