Bus drivers in London are on strike for 24 hours as part of a campaign to end pay disparities, and for better working conditions.
Members of the Unite union, which represents more than 27,000 employees at 18 bus companies, are striking over an alleged refusal by operators to address pay inequality that has led to pay gaps of more than £3 an hour for new employees.
According to Unite, pay levels vary from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on bus operator.
It said that there are more than 80 different pay rates covering drivers doing the same job, hence the differences in hourly rates.
Members of the union want to secure one scale for pay and conditions across the 18 bus operators.
Mike Weston, director of buses at Transport for London, said: “I am very sorry that the leadership of Unite have chosen to disrupt the journeys of bus passengers, especially given that only 16% of bus drivers voted for strike action.
“As the bus companies which employ the drivers have said, it makes no sense to pay all drivers precisely the same amount.
“As in all professions, bus drivers have different skills and experiences, and it is only right that this can be reflected in pay.
“If all drivers are paid the average, then by definition half of all bus drivers will need to take a pay cut. Any ‘levelling up’ of pay to the highest rates would lead to a cut in bus services, an increase in fares, or both.”
Wayne King, London regional officer for Unite, added: “As bus company directors enjoy lottery-style salaries, bus drivers doing the same job on the same route are being pitted against one another on different rates of pay.
“Strike action is the last resort. We’ve been forced into this position by the operators’ refusal to even meet with us. Passengers sitting side by side on the same route expect to pay the same fare, so why shouldn’t drivers expect to be paid the same rate?
“The bus operators need to stop pleading poverty in defending pay inequality and collectively start negotiating about a fairer deal for London’s bus workers.”