Indefinite lock out reply to bus driver strike - RePress

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Thursday, September 25

Indefinite lock out reply to bus driver strike

housands of commuters' travel plans were again thrown into chaos today as an escalating dispute between GO Wellington bus drivers and their employers has resulted in an indefinite lock out of 300 staff.

The company's lock out was in reponse to the hour-long strike during yesterday morning's rush hour.

Wellington City Council has said the industrial action would taint the city's reputation.

Acting Mayor Ian McKinnon said the issue was worrying for the 50,000 people who use public transport every day.

And the city was about to be inundated with visitors arriving for the World of WearableArt Awards set to begin tonight, he said.

Police urged drivers to be patient with heavier than normal traffic flows into Wellington.

"We ask drivers to be patient in their travel plans in and around Wellington City today," a spokesman said Tramways Union secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said the drivers' base pay rate of $12.72 an hour was unacceptable in light of today's living costs and that roster cuts had seen their real incomes reduced 19 percent in recent years.

Mr O'Sullivan said the lockout was a "gross over-reaction" and bully tactics designed to force members into backing down.

He said the indefinite lockout would sting the low-paid staff and their families.

GO Wellington general manager Bruce Kenyon said management had worked hard to try and resolve the issue, including offering a 7 percent pay increase, and was disappointed the decision was made to strike.

"Effectively, the intention of the strike is to create commuter chaos," he said.

"We asked that the union seriously reconsider the offer prior to taking this drastic action. Additionally, we have said that we are available to return to the negotiating table or attend mediation."

That would happen once the strike notice was withdrawn.

Once penal rates, allowances and the 7 percent offer were taken into account, drivers' hourly wage would equate to $19.41, GO Wellington said.

A small number of privately owned bus companies in the greater Wellington region were not involved in the action and would continue to operate as usual.-NZPA

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