Timaru bus drivers are planning to strike for a week, effectively putting buses off the road.
The action involves about 10 drivers and comes after attempts to gain an increase in the minimum pay rate they receive, Amalgamated Workers Union spokesman Lindsay Chappell said yesterday.
The strike will run for seven days from Monday, July 21, and comes as a result of their employer's -- Timaru Bus Service Ltd -- "continued disregard for realistic wage rates," Mr Chappell said. "Our members regret it has come to this as they have the greatest respect and regard for the community who have been very supportive through the dispute."
It is illegal for the operator to attempt to use other drivers during the strike period.
While the drivers felt a responsibility to the community, Mr Chappell said they could not continue to work for the $12 an hour they receive or the $13 the company was now offering. There was also the issue of drivers not being paid for extra time when they finished a run late due to traffic delays or roadworks.
Their Christchurch counterparts, who have the same employer, are paid $16.85 an hour and $17.05 an hour after two years. The Timaru wages are the lowest rate paid by any South Island passenger service.
The drivers received $2 an hour more when employed by the service's previous contractor, Ritchies Transport. Mr Chappell said the drivers have been attempting to negotiate better wages and conditions since the company won the contract 18 months ago.
"Ecan chose the successful tender and, on this occasion, the lowest price, which clearly was based on the minimum wage for labour. "This is what the system is allowing and we ask what Ecan is doing with the savings made by the comparative pricing procedures.
"The public are paying for this service in their rates and you can guarantee there has been no rebate as a result of this tender process," Mr Chappell said.