UK Markets close in 4 hrs 24 mins

Commuters And Tourists Suffer In Bus Strike

(c) Sky News 2012

Thousands of London bus workers are on strike in a dispute over a bonus for working during the Olympics.

The walkout is disrupting travel for commuters and tourists across the capital, with three-quarters of bus routes not running and many routes disrupted, according to Transport (Euronext: IXSTP.NX - news) for London.

The action has gone ahead ahead even though three companies - Arriva (LSE: ARI.L - news) , Metroline and London General - were granted a High Court injunction in the High Court on Thursday preventing drivers from striking.

It is understood that the Unite union members from 17 firms going on strike represent about 85% of the total workforce.

TfL say staff and volunteers are at key stations and on streets to advise passengers and hand out walking maps.

Marshalled taxi ranks are operating at busy transport hubs including Victoria, St Pancras, Waterloo, Liverpool Street and London Bridge and TfL staff are working to ensure 'Boris Bikes' are available across the city.

Hopes had been raised that the strike could be averted after London mayor Boris Johnson announced that £8.3m was available for bus companies to pay a bonus, but talks at the conciliation service ended without agreement.

Mr Johnson said: "I am saddened, disappointed and enormously frustrated that despite brokering £8.3m of funding, union leaders and the private bus companies have failed to reach agreement, and as a result it looks likely that Londoners will face unnecessary and needless disruption.

"It seems to me that some militant union leaders remain hell-bent on strike action, and that is wholly unacceptable.

"I want the people of London, and our honest and hard-working bus drivers, to know that we've gone the extra mile, money is on the table, this offer is fair, but it is also conditional on drivers not taking strike action."

Unite London regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: "Bus workers across the vast majority of London's bus network will be on strike. This comes despite an injunction which was given without any proper explanation.

"It begs the question of whether the court has come under any external pressure in making the ruling.

"Granting an injunction in the face of a massive vote for strike action is an affront to democracy.

"We are fast becoming a country where justice rules in favour of big business and tramples on the rights of ordinary working men and women.

"We will appeal this anti-democratic decision. It will only serve to deepen the resolve of London bus workers.

"The failure by the bus companies to negotiate seriously and their desire to run to the courts will only heighten tensions.

"The decision by these three bus companies runs contrary to the mayor's call to pay London bus workers an Olympic bonus."

Peter Hendy, London's transport commissioner, said: "It is, and always has been, for the bus companies and Unite to resolve this dispute. Given their inability to do so, the mayor obtained - unprecedentedly - £8.3m from the Olympic Delivery Authority.

"This would allow every bus driver in London in a garage where one or more routes were affected by the 2012 Games to gain, over the 29 days of the competitions, about £500.

"As I understand it, the bus companies made three offers to supplement this with more of their own money, but the Unite leadership have refused to budge from their position of £500 after tax for everybody, and indeed have asked for more during the course of the negotiations.

"The union leadership have also refused to defer the strike to give time for further negotiations or for any of the offers to be put to their members.

"The mayor has made it clear that the money he obtained from the ODA is only available if there is no strike. Our message to London's bus drivers is: you should work normally and, if you do, the extra money brokered by the mayor is still available.

"The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Unite leadership were never serious in wanting to settle for additional money for their bus drivers, and their strike is going ahead without their members having been asked whether or not they will accept any of the employers' offers."