Bus operators in the capital will need to guarantee new drivers a basic starting salary of £23,000 from April.
The new minimum salary is part of a package of measures announced today by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who promised during the election campaign to tackle inequality in driver pay.
Driver pay and conditions are set by the firms which operate routes under contract from Transport for London and Mr Khan has previously highlighted how pay levels can vary greatly between firms.
To help establish a more level playing field, the Mayor and TfL will require bus firms to introduce the starter minimum wage on all route contracts won or renewed from April 2017. By imposing a minimum rate, Mr Khan hopes to avoid “a race to the bottom” where operators slash pay in order to put in cheaper bids to win contracts.
The Mayor is also requiring firms to stop forcing drivers who move between employers to start on a lower salary, a practice which discounts years of experience and qualifications. From April the industry will have to allow drivers to join at a local pay level which reflects their previous service.
During the election Mr Khan promised to bring in a single pay structure for drivers and today said he expected operators, TfL and unions to work together to develop a London-wide pay structure offering minimum levels of pay based on three and plus five years’ experience.
City Hall has cautioned that this “will take longer to implement” than other measures because of the wide variation in pay levels.
Announcing his new measures, Mr Khan said: “London’s hard-working bus drivers keep our city moving at all times of day and night. Yet while millions of Londoners rely upon our buses every day, for too long drivers haven’t been getting a fair deal.
“London’s buses are an iconic and essential part of our everyday life, and our new proposals are the first step towards ensuring our professional drivers are treated fairly, and get the pay they deserve.”
Gareth Powell, Transport for London’s Director of Strategy and Contracted Services, added: “The bus network plays an absolutely vital role in London life, and as we’re improving it for customers – with cheaper journeys, cleaner buses and less congested routes – we also want to improve the lives of London’s bus drivers.
“This package of measures will ensure a decent wage and better prospects for development and progression for all bus drivers across London’s bus industry.”
Conservatives on the London Assembly say the Mayor’s move to harmonised pay will lead to taxpayers “subsidising” private firms.
Transport spokesperson Keith Prince Said: “There are good reasons why bus companies might pay drivers extra to work more complex routes.
“The London bus system has been a success because we give our bus operators the freedom to run these services the way that works best.
“In the end it will be the taxpayer subsidising the bus operators for making these unnecessary changes.”