Free rides for Aucklanders who travel by bus have now turned into no rides, with bus driver strike action ramping up and NZ Bus cancelling all services temporarily.
It was announced this morning that First Union members who drive for NZ Bus would begin offering free passenger fares until Christmas in opposition to what the union deems as poor wages and working conditions.
But this afternoon, NZ Bus responded by saying it would have to cancel all services until industrial action is resolved, as it can not afford to run services with no fares being collected.
The company says that means all striking workers will be suspended for that time, and it will not be paying wages either.
An Auckland Transport spokesperson confirmed NZ Bus’ services in the city will not be running from tomorrow morning.
It includes routes along Dominion, Sandringham, Mt Eden and Manukau Roads, as well as other routes across the wider Auckland region and LINK services.
Auckland Transport is looking into the impact this would have on commuters and the greater network in the coming days.
NZ Bus chief executive Barry Hinkley says the company is contractually obliged to collect fares on behalf of Auckland Transport.
"If our drivers do not collect fares, then we cannot afford to operate the buses," says Mr Hinkley.
"The consequence of this is that all NZ Bus services will not be operating until there is a resolution to the industrial action."
Mr Hinkley said they are trying to resolve matters, and will be going into mediation next Monday.
"Throughout the bargaining, we have made it very clear that our door remains open for the unions to come to the negotiating table with us to find a solution," he said.
"We are hoping that the situation is resolved quickly so that normal service can resume for our staff and for our customers."
Around 800 FIRST Union and NZ Tramways members at NZ Bus began the free fares partial strike action on Monday this week.
They joined over 100 FIRST Union members at Go Bus, who are also offering free fares until Christmas.
NZ Bus drivers intend to continue the partial strike action for a month instead of a week.
First Union's Jared Abbott said everyone wants to find a solution.
"We’re hoping that negotiations over the coming weeks will be focused on lifting the standards for all Auckland bus drivers and fixing the broken system that put them in this position," said Mr Abbott.