30 Jan 2016

NZ Bus to lose South Auckland contract

2:49 pm on 30 January 2016

More than 240 jobs are in limbo after the country's biggest urban bus operator, NZ Bus, lost its contract to operate in South Auckland.

Bus drivers arriving at their stop work meeting at midday today.

NZ Bus drivers arriving at a stop work meeting in December. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Auckland Transport yesterday told NZ Bus its tender had not been selected for bus services in the area from late this year.

The company has been given a nine-month transition period before new South Auckland contracts are signed.

NZ Bus chief executive Zane Fulljames said they had put in a strong, high quality bid to Auckland Transport and it was disappointing that they were not selected.

However he said it would not be wise to suggest that there would be job losses.

"In our South Auckland business, we have 245 staff out of a total 2000.

"We are a very large organisation and we do have the opportunity to redistribute, which certainly we'll be working through with our teams in South Auckland."

Mr Fulljames said Auckland was going through an extremely large recontracting process which meant other businesses would also have to renegotiate.

"So there are opportunities to win, and opportunities to lose."

He said the company was talking to the staff who would be affected at the moment but it was very early days.

Other companies pay drivers less - union

A union representing bus drivers said about 200 NZ Bus drivers were facing job cuts, redistribution or even less pay.

Tramways and Public Transport Union national president Gary Froggatt said the decision was going to cause a major problem for its members, but there was some time to place drivers in other depots.

He said NZ Bus had obviously tendered too high a price, and would now pay for it by not getting the work. Mr Froggatt said drivers who switched companies might face a pay cut.

"Some of them may be offered jobs with a new company ... we know what the wage rates are in those companies - the wage is a lot less than what is currently paid with NZ Bus."

NZ Bus would pass the buck for its own mistakes, he said.

"I guess NZ Bus will attempt to blame the workers even though we've helped them become more competitive during the past two years by modifying our wage claims, but you know the average bus driver takes home about $800 a week, by the time you take out $500 for rent there's not much left."

Mr Froggatt said if drivers were redistributed to work under another company taking over the tender, they were looking at getting $1 an hour less.

He said the union had not yet been given the details about exactly what had happened, but once it had talked through the issue with NZ Bus in the next few weeks, it might be able to mitigate the loss in some way.

"We are in the middle of negotiations for a new employment agreement, which affects the other 1000 employees that we cover, and obviously the discussions will continue on during the wage negotiations."

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