Wellington bus drivers accept fourth offer in pay negotiation wrangle

Tramways Union drivers in Wellington have accepted a fourth pay offer from NZ Bus, bringing an end to months of wrangling over their collective agreement.

The long-running saga has resulted in stop-work meetings, a strike, and a lockout.

This afternoon NZ Bus confirmed in a statement a new collective employment agreement has been settled on with its Wellington drivers.

Chief Operating Officer Jay Zmijewski said the agreement secures a fair and equitable outcome for existing staff and gives NZ Bus greater ability to recruit more full-time drivers.

“This is a great outcome. We want our drivers to be the best paid and have the best conditions in the industry, and this deal achieves that.

“We look forward to attracting more drivers to the industry to provide safe and secure public transport services to the people of Wellington.”

Tramways Union has been approached for comment.

Zmijewski acknowledged the role Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) has played in the pay talks.

“We look forward to partnering with council to improve service levels in the coming weeks and months.”

Wellington has been battling with a shortage of at least 60 drivers, resulting in record cancellations.

A new reduced peak-hour bus timetable came into effect on Sunday for some services in an effort to provide more certainty, instead of commuters waiting for buses which never show up.

GWRC chairman Daran Ponter said today’s vote was good news and meant drivers and the operators could put the issue behind them.

“This has been six months of tension and acrimony and both parties needed to be able to settle on an agreement they can live with for the next three years.

“But as importantly, it’s also good for Wellingtonians. It means they can have certainty that they’re not going to have stop-work meetings on a frequent basis.”

The council’s involvement in negotiations is a significant step-change from its previous position of being a bystander.

It has provided mediators and facilitators, topped up driver wages to the living wage, and changed service provision to get rid of as many split shifts as possible.

Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said new bus timetables would now be drawn up to reflect some of the “real wins” in the new agreement.

“One of the most positive outcomes will be guaranteed 8-hour shifts on request, making work and home life easier to manage for drivers.”

But the new timetable could also result in some services being axed due to the driver shortages, as has already gone ahead on Tranzurban services.

“We’ll be looking to get agreement on a set of timetable changes that will better match staffing numbers to ultimately create a more flexible and reliable network”, Gallacher said.

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