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New rest-break law tipped to cause more bus delays

A group representing bus companies has warned that rest-break legislation risks further delays to already stretched bus services.

Photo: kzenon/123RF

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill, that comes into force on 6 May, requires employees receive two 10 minute rest-breaks and a 30 minute meal break across an eight hour day.

Bus and Coach Association New Zealand (BCA) president Alister McDermott wrote to Transport Minister Phil Twyford last month with a list of concerns regarding the legislation including “insufficient time to prepare” and “increased staff requirement”.

“You will also be aware of the nationwide driver shortage. These changes will compound this issue by increasing the number of drivers needed to deliver current service levels. The decreased income opportunities outlined above will also make driving less attractive to prospective recruits, making it harder to recruit and retain staff.”

The letter also said that it did not have enough time for the necessary roster, cost and timetable changes that the legislation required.

The legislation was passed in December last year.

The letter goes on to say that changes would likely have the opposite effect of growing public transport patronage, saying that: “Bus reliability and availability is likely to decline, alongside the attractiveness of public transport as a travel option for the travelling public.”

Mr Twyford said he was meeting with the BCA this week to discuss their concerns.

“Instead of catastrophising about their inability to schedule decent breaks for drivers, it should be within the ability of both the bus operators and the unions to find a practical way to make this work,” he said in a statement.

Unions Wellington convenor Ben Peterson said that bus companies have had ample time to plan for these changes, which have been working through Parliament for 18 months.

“The failure of bus operators to prepare for this in cooperation with their staff, unions and regional councils can only be seen as incompetence.”

Bus and Coach Association New Zealand chief executive Barry Kidd declined to comment but said he would provide an update after the meeting with the minister.

RNZ / Meriana Johnsen