Bus drivers with trade union Unite have slammed parent company RATP Group over new contracts and pay cuts they say are being forced through amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With the series of strikes continuing across South London on Tuesday (February 23), including a picket line of striking drivers in Tolworth, Unite and bus drivers on strike continued to attack the French multinational who owns several bus companies that operate a number of routes in South West London.

"RATP is guilty of using the cover of the pandemic to force through attacks on terms and conditions and table pitiful pay offers," Unite Regional Officer, Michelle Braveboy, said.

"RATP has a long history of attacking one group of workers at a time, attempting to slash pay and conditions, before moving onto the next group. Our members are drawing a line in the sand with this dispute."

"Workers are taking industrial action as a last resort as the company has refused to listen to reason and continue with the negotiations.

"They understand that bus strikes will cause huge disruption to the general public but believe they have no choice but to defend terms and conditions and ensure a fair pay offer.

"Bus strikes can still be averted if RATP removes its threats to cut terms and conditions at London United and make fair pay offers at Quality Line and London Sovereign," he added.

Nearly 2,000 bus drivers will walk out between February 22, when the strikes started, and tomorrow (Wednesday February 24) over the new contracts that they say amount to wage cuts of £2,500 per driver.

Some drivers said they were offered a pay rise of 7p, which they don't consider to be enough.

Bus drivers on strike in Tolworth set up their picket near to the train station and held placards bearing slogans like 'Don't dictate, negotiate!'

They were supported by a number of Labour MPs across the capital, including Battersea MP Marsha De Cordova.

"Bus Drivers have been on the front line during this crisis. It’s time to back our bus drivers," she posted to Twitter, urging her followers to do the same.

"Support the #LondonBusStrike. Don’t let companies like RATP exploit the Covid-19 crisis to drive down wages and conditions #StoptheWagecCuts #FAIRPAYRISENOW."

TfL previously urged both Unite workers and RATP to negotiate until a solution was reached, and apologised to passengers for the disruption.

RATP meanwhile defended its conduct in the drawing up of the new contracts.

Responding to a request from the Surrey Comet, a spokesperson said:

"We have been in pay negotiations with Unite since September 2020, bearing in mind the very challenging business environment the company faces.

"RATP Dev London made a fair and proportionate pay offer to Unite, including an additional single payment to reflect changes in terms and conditions.

"We entered negotiations in good faith, with the best, long term interests of employees and passengers in mind. We apologise to passengers for the inconvenience and disruption to journeys."

The London United routes which will be affected between Monday February 22 and Wednesday February 24 are: 18, 33, 65, 70, 71, 72, 85, 94, 110, 111, 116, 148, 203, 216, 220, 223, 224, 265, 266, 281, 283, 371, 406, 411, 418, 419, 423, 440, 613, 662, 665, 671, 681, 696, 697, 465, N18, N33, N65, N72, N266, C1, H22, H32, H37, H98, K1, K2, K3, K4 and K5

The Quality Line routes which will be affected are: 293, 404, 413, 463, 467, 470, 633, S1, S3

The London Sovereign routes which will be affected are: 79, 142, 183, 251, 258, 288, 303, 326, 395, 398, 642, N5, H9, H10, H11, H12, H14, H17, H18 and H19