A pay increase demand by striking bus drivers in Dorset is “unaffordable”, a bus company has claimed.
More than 100 Weymouth and Bridport drivers have walked out as long-standing action over pay enters its seventh week.
First Dorset said it could not meet the “inflation-busting” 8% pay rise demanded.
The Unite union argued the cost of strike action to the firm would cover the pay rise for several years.
Marc Reddy, managing director at First Dorset, said: “The 8% demanded by Unite is just unaffordable by the business, without major implications to customers.”
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said Weymouth and Bridport drivers earned £8.80 an hour and wanted this to rise to £9.50 over three years, to match the wages of drivers in Yeovil, Somerset.
He added the union estimated the current cost of strike action to First Dorset was about £500,000, which he added “would cover the pay rise for years and years to come”.
Mr Reddy denied the strike had cost the firm that much, but could not give an exact figure.
However, he added: “It has cost us some more than what we would normally have to operate, but the key thing is if we hadn’t have spent some money operating the services then there would have been no buses operating in Weymouth and Bridport.”
Both parties have claimed they have invited the other to join them at formal arbitration as a means of resolving the dispute.
The first round of action began on 20 June, with the current round due to end at 04:29 BST on 15 August.
However, Unite said an eighth week of action was also planned.
Unite has said striking drivers were losing “hundreds of pounds” in pay but were receiving financial support from the union and donations from members of the public.