A strike by bus drivers over wages and benefits paralysed public transport in Anhui province's Huaibei city on Thursday in a rare case of industrial action on the mainland. Bus services ground to a halt on as many as 20 routes in Huaibei, a city with a population of 2 million, officials and mainland media said yesterday. The stoppage started on a single route on Wednesday afternoon and then spread across the city on Thursday. 'In the beginning, it was just a few drivers and then more wanted to support them,' a local government official said. Government and company officials declined to give an exact estimate for how many participated in the strike from the city's major transport firm, Huaibei Zhongbei Bus Co, which has 655 workers and 266 buses. But the government official claimed less than 100 drivers joined the strike. In 2003, Huaibei privatised its main transport company by selling a majority stake to Nanjing Zhongbei Group, a listed company. The local government promised compensation to employees for the change in ownership. Drivers were unhappy about the level of compensation, medical benefits and their salaries, despite a pay rise in the first half of this year, a company official said. Most services had resumed yesterday after officials spent the night negotiating with drivers.