Cuts are not inevitable: we can defend our conditions

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Sat, 23/10/2021 - 20:23,
Strike

Compared to many other workers, directly-employed LU staff have good pay, pension arrangements, and working conditions. This is because we have fought to win these things and, over decades, resisted attempts to erode them.

That could all change. The Tory government systematically underfunded TfL by removing its grant, meaning that, when fare revenue collapsed during the pandemic, TfL was plunged into financial crisis. The Tories’ bailouts came with strings, and now our bosses are carrying out Tory demands to attack our pay pensions, and other conditions.

Pay

We have consistently won above-inflation pay rises, meaning our wages stay ahead of the cost of living. Already, TfL has imposed a pay freeze on all non-LU staff earning above £24k/year. They could attempt to extend that to LU staff once our pay deal expires next year.

We should not apologise for continuing to demand this. The cost of living continues to rise, with London rents and house prices amongst the most expensive in the world. The service we provide is worth billions for the London and national economies.

Pensions

Many of us will give 20 years or more of our lives to London Underground, perhaps spending a lot of that waking up at 3am for an early start, or coming home long after the service has stopped running.

But part of the deal is the pension we get to keep us going through our retirement. We need to make our pension better, not let senior bosses and Tory ministers, who will not have to worry about their own living conditions in retirement, take it away.

The company’s pensions review is due to publish its first set of outcomes in early November. It may recommend closing the scheme to new starters, and hope that the apparent protection for existing staff will be enough to undermine resistance. We must stand firm. We have to fight for the conditions of both current and future workers.

Terms and conditions

The company says it is reviewing all Framework Agreements, policies, and procedures. This means policies like our sick pay entitelement could be under threat. The Attendance at Work policy could be changed to make it even more punitive. As well as fighting to defend what we have, we must also fight for improvements, such as a four-day, 32-hour week for full-time staff. Our existing Framework Agreements mean management don’t have free reign to send us wherever they wish, or have us book on at different times without a set notice period.

The important thing to remember about all these rights is that none were handed down out of the goodness of the bosses’ hearts. We only have any of them because of the battles we have fought and the unity and strength we have as union members.

Getting organised

We have to now be organised and on the front foot, ready to fight not only to defend what we have, but to win improvements.

Our unions must work together wherever possible, building the campaign at grassroots in workplaces and at branch meetings. Bosses claim that financial constraints mean they have to make cuts; we must mount a strong enough campaign to convince them that the consequences of attempting to make cuts will be worse than the consequences of telling the Tories cuts are unviable.

Start by speaking to your workmates about the need to prepare for action, and get active in your union!

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