In the biggest race case to come before an industrial tribunal, London Underground accepted that the 20 black staff received smaller bonuses than their white colleagues.
All 20 men who took action were senior members of staff, most of them having worked for about 30 years and many having been recruited directly from the Caribbean.
Yesterday, they said they had been conscious of indirect discrimination over many years, with younger, less experienced white managers being promoted ahead of them.
But it was the introduction of the new pay scheme in 1988 that provided concrete evidence. An analysis of the figures showed that over a three-year period white managers received bigger pay rises, forcing London Underground to concede that it had indirectly discriminated against the group of 20. In a statement, the company said it could not justify what had happened. It agreed to pay the 19 applicants who had subsequently retired pounds 3,150 each. Wilphere Ellington, who still works, will receive pounds 2,500 and have his salary increased.
Afterwards, the men said that they had received little support from their union and had only been able to bring the case when they formed the Transport Workers Legal Action Committee. They were backed by the Council for Racial Equality and Brent Community Law Centre in north-west London.
Tony Garner, spokesman for the committee, said: 'We have given, on average, 30 years' service. I feel very bitter about the way I have been treated. We felt we had to take action to see that justice was done.' Mr Garner, who began working for London Underground in 1964 sweeping platforms and cleaning lavatories, said: 'We are not rebels or anarchists. We are honest hard- working people who just felt that enough was enough.'
But he added: 'Although London Underground has apologised, I believe discrimination continues.'
London Underground - 28 per cent of whose staff are from ethnic minorities - has also agreed to provide a breakdown of future pay awards to the Commission for Racial Equality.