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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 June 2018

Transport for London to lose central grant: bus workers must prep for action

London bus workers demonstration outside City Hall 14 September 2017, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson

London bus workers demonstration outside City Hall 14 September 2017, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Mo, London bus driver

By 2020 there will be nil central government funding to Transport for London (TfL). Cuts will further affect bus workers' conditions, with a rise of safety-critical issues.

Bus operators, when the recession occurred, gave the excuse that due to the economic situation they could not give pay rises - and workers took action. We must be prepared for the same excuse from operators, who may say again that they will freeze pay on the buses.

It's crucial to demand that Labour mayor Sadiq Khan - who got votes from bus workers by promising to represent us - does not implement these cuts. The mayor runs a 16 billion budget and has the same borrowing powers as councils.

The local government committee of Unite, the union which also organises most London bus workers, has the position that Labour councils should not implement cuts. Instead they should use reserves and borrowing powers and build campaigns for funding.

London bus workers should put the same demand to Khan. We should also call on Jeremy Corbyn to pledge to reverse the cuts to TfL once a Labour government is elected, and underwrite any debt incurred fighting the cuts beforehand.

Fellow transport union RMT has policy opposing cuts to TfL. Imagine the effect if the mayor convened a public campaign, with the transport unions, against the cuts and against the Tory government. It could mobilise support from huge numbers of workers and members of the public.

Unfortunately, as a Blairite, Khan is not likely to listen to these demands. To fight the cuts we need to use every means we can, including preparing for industrial action by bus workers across London, and coordinated action with other TfL unions.

Bus workers protested outside City Hall in September 2017, successfully pressuring the mayor to introduce 6 million towards building toilets for bus drivers. However, on around 30 bus routes, drivers are still forced to pay around 50p a time to use the toilets.

This is collectively costing bus drivers around 500,000 a year while we suffer a below-inflation pay 'rise'. Bus workers should also call on the mayor to open up all Underground toilets for bus drivers to use.

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