A leading transport union has threatened London-wide industrial action over the government’s “disgraceful” new funding package for Transport for London. The £1.08 billion deal will secure TfL financially until December but comes with several conditions attached.
TfL has been told it must “review” its pension scheme and freeze workers’ pay in line with the public sector pay freeze while it is receiving emergency funding from the government, and it must also work towards implementing so-called “driverless trains” on the Tube network.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, said the deal “will be resisted by our members, whether it comes from Whitehall or City Hall, through London-wide industrial action if necessary.
He added: “It is completely unacceptable for transport workers who have risked and, in some cases, tragically lost their lives to now be asked to pay this political price for the coronavirus. Attacks on workers’ pensions are wholly unacceptable while driverless trains are unwanted, unaffordable and unsafe. With funding only lasting until December, London is being held to ransom with a gun to its head rather than being given the long-term stable funding deal that is necessary to rebuild the economy as we move out of lockdown.
In a letter to Sadiq Khan outlining the details of the funding package, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps specified that he and TfL must “take all reasonable steps to avoid industrial action during the funding period” and that they must “mitigate the impact” of any industrial action if necessary.
As part of the deal agreed today, TfL must find an additional £900 million of savings this year and must increase its revenue by up to £1 billion per year from 2023. Although the Mayor and the London Assembly have unanimously called for the government to devolve Vehicle Excise Duty raised in London to TfL, Shapps ruled this out and said that it “cannot be right” to impose a Greater London Boundary Charge on drivers entering the capital from elsewhere, as had been proposed as a potential new revenue source for TfL.
Khan has said that “there are very few options” to raise the money outlined in the funding deal and that “forcing TfL to impose draconian additional measures on London would be unacceptable”. He maintained that he would “continue to work with the government to identify an appropriate source of funding”, adding that he is “hopeful” that increased fare income as lockdown eases further will prevent the need for further measures.
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