Tube cuts: prepare for action

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 14:25,
A green direction sign indicating "funding"

Talks between TfL and the government about a further funding bailout are ongoing, with discussions being extend past the 17 October deadline for the expiry of the previous package.

Tory attack lines blame Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan for "bankrupting" TfL. This is a blatant lie. TfL's funding crisis stems directly from the Tory policy of abolishing its central government subsidy, meaning it became heavily reliant on fare revenue.

It seems Mayor Khan resisted some of the measures the government wanted to impose as a condition of any further funding, including extending the congestion charge zone. Will he continue to stand firm if the Tories start demanding cuts and restructures on LU?

We should demand that he does, but we can’t rely on him. We need to prepare to take action to resist any proposed cuts that come our way. A Financial Times report said the Department for Transport was insisting on "workplace reform" as part of any further funding package, and Tory London Assembly Member Keith Prince has already suggested TfL cut staff nominee passes and our pensions.

The Tories want to bludgeon Tube workers, as one of the best unionised workforces in the country, with relatively good terms and conditions. That's why the government insisted on including exploring the possibilities for driverless trains in the terms of reference for the review of TfL's finances it commissioned KPMG to lead. Even senior LU bosses know driverless trains would require substantial infrastructural upgrades to several lines, meaning any potential "saving" would be postponed until after years of huge financial outlay. The Tories' obsession with driverless trains is an ideological artefact aimed at attacking organised labour.

Aslef did the right thing by balloting pre-emptively. They now have a mandate for action which means they can name strikes at 14 days’ notice. Other unions on LU need to secure a similar mandate. Organising and winning an industrial action ballot in current conditions won’t be easy, and there are understandable anxieties about striking during a pandemic.

But ultimately, withdrawing our labour is our most effective means of asserting our demands and we can’t be afraid of using it. Our campaign needs to oppose any and all cuts as a bottom line, but also needs to be "counter-offensive": we need to assert our own vision for publicly funded, democratically run public transport in London.

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