Hundreds of North East bus drivers today started a week-long strike in a dispute over pay.
Members of the Unite union working for Arriva, based at Darlington, Durham, Redcar, Stockton and Whitby, walked out until Saturday, January 12.
They rejected a revised package before Christmas which Unite said included 75p on the hourly rate over two years in four instalments.
The drivers are seeking an increase of £1 an hour.
Unite official Bob Bolam said the workers believed they are the second-lowest-paid Arriva drivers in the country.
The union said 650 drivers are involved in the dispute.
Talks between Unite - Britain and Ireland’s largest union, which represents the drivers - and the Arriva Durham County Ltd management, broke down on Thursday when the company said there was ‘no new money’ on the table.
Unite accused the bosses of ‘going around and around in circles’, after the drivers overwhelmingly rejected a revised pay offer just before Christmas.
Nigel Featham, Arriva managing director for the region, said: “Unite claims, without any attempt at justification, that our drivers are poorly paid relative to others. Quite simply, it’s a false flag, and one that has led to an unnecessary industrial action."
Rival bus operator Go North East has said that it will be putting on extra buses to help passengers in Durham and Tees Valley affected by the Arriva strike.