Olivia Harris / Reuters
Bus drivers stand on a picket line near the West Ham Bus Garage in east London on Friday.
Thousands of London bus drivers went on strike Friday, demanding a bonus of $780 for working during next month’s Olympic games.
The public transit authority, Transport for London, said two-thirds of the capital’s 8,000 red buses were off the road on Friday due to the action.
With just over a month to go before millions of athletes and visitors arrive for the games, union leaders have issued a string of demand for extra payments.
Underground train drivers have already secured a bonus of up to $1,326 – in addition to overtime payments – while workers in the Docklands Light Railway system near the games site have negotiated a payment of up to $1,482.
“Transport unions have the Mayor, ministers and the Games organizers over a barrel,” Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, wrote in the Evening Standard newspaper. “No Olympics in history have been as dependent on public transport as London 2012. Indeed, a vow to get spectators to and from events by trains, Tubes and buses was a key element in the bid.”
Mayor Boris Johnson has said those who strike will not be eligible for an Olympics bonus.
He said the strike was "extremely frustrating" and added: "I can only conclude that this strike is being driven by hardline trades union militancy and a desire to have a strike for political purposes."
In a bid to avert the strike, Johnson last week offered a deal with a collective $12.9 million but the union, Unite, is still seeking payments totaling $32.7 million.
It wants every bus driver to be paid a larger bonus, even if they don't drive routes affected by the Olympics, including anyone off sick or unavailabe to work.
Some routes were running on Friday after their private operators secured a court injunction to prevent workers joining the strike.
ITV News is the UK partner of NBC News. Alastair Jamieson, msnbc.com, contributed to this report.
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