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Striking bus drivers to give free fares

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/12/2016

Hamilton passengers on Pavlovich Coachlines will ride the bus for free on Thursday as part of industrial action by some drivers.

The drivers and First Union members say they are striking for fair pay and secure conditions.

However, Pavlovich Coachlines chief executive Bernard Pavlovich said his company always endeavoured to pay salaries based on a fair market rate.

While all bus services will still run during the strike, drivers will not be charging or accepting fares from passengers.

The moves follows a demonstration by the drivers outside the Hamilton Transport Centre last Thursday morning.

First Union organiser Tony Stevens said his team had met Mr Pavlovich at mediation, but accused the bus operator of attempting to weaken the drivers' ability to take industrial action.

"He won't put through back pay for our members, he wants to add in 90 day trials, and he wants the drivers to agree to conditions that'll disadvantage future union members," Mr Stevens said.

"Pavlovich isn't listening to the drivers. So we've decided to hit the wealthy company where it hurts - their wallet.

"The last thing our drivers want to do is inconvenience the public, so that's why they'll still be operating the buses. The only difference is passengers won't be charged for the trip."

However, Mr Pavlovich said in a statement his business always tried to balance the financial tension between keeping costs down so bus fares remain affordable and paying staff a fair market rate.

"As we move forward in these negotiations we want the best outcome that achieves the right balance," he said.

"With that in mind, we remain committed, in good faith, to continued engagement with First Union until a resolution is made."

The strike action is set to run from 5am to 10:30pm.

While First Union says the strike will involve 30 drivers, Mr Pavlovich said less than 20 of his employees will be taking part.

"There will be very little disruption to our bus services in Hamilton as a result of this strike," he said.

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