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Transport for London given six-month funding stop gap - but fight against cuts continues
Jared Wood, RMT national executive committee - London Transport Representative (personal capacity)
The mayor of London and the Department for Transport (DfT) have come to an agreement on a six-month funding deal for Transport for London (TfL), that will keep public transport running in London until April 2021.
The DfT has dropped demands to extend the London congestion zone, while freedom passes for over-60s, and free travel for under-18s will now have to be funded from the Greater London Authority's (GLA) budget, and not from any government support. However, the DfT backed away from threats to force TfL to withdraw these concessions.
It is clear that a weak government facing crises on all sides, and potential splits within the Tory party, did not feel confident to impose an agreement on the GLA at this time. Similarly, the preparedness of both the RMT and Aslef trade unions to fight austerity has forced TfL bosses to promise that the six-month funding deal will not lead to any job losses or detriment to workers' pay, terms or conditions.
But hidden in the text of the deal is agreement from TfL to become fully self-financed, with no government grant at all, by April 2023. As part of achieving this, TfL has had to agree to continue to implement an existing cuts programme that seeks to make 'savings' of £722 million over the five-year business period from 2018-2023. As if that is not enough, the short-term deal demands an additional £160 million of cuts to be made by next April.
A guarantee of no attacks on workers up to April 2021 is better than no guarantee, but it leaves many questions that members will demand answers to. In particular, what happens when another £300 million of cuts have to be made over the following two years to April 2023?
With a triennial actuarial review of the TfL pension fund also due in March 2021, it is clear that RMT and all tube unions must be ready to defend jobs and conditions. With discussion due to start imminently about how to achieve self-financing this battle could break out at any time. Many reps and activists are already saying that we must not allow an incremental implementation of cuts, but that we need to fight back immediately to demand full government funding.
Tube workers have delivered massive productivity gains over the past decade, and we will not accept pay cuts and job losses now. Our message must be that the government was able to bail out the banks and super-rich elite after the 2008 banking crisis. They must support workers and public services now. No job cuts, no detriment to pay, terms or conditions. Nothing else is acceptable.
In The Socialist 4 November 2020:
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