TfL bailout agreed... but £160m "savings" to be found?

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 03/11/2020 - 13:23,
A graphic of a stack of coins next to a money bag with a question mark on it.

The government has agreed a six-month, £1.8 billion funding bailout for TfL, after a period of intense negotiations that saw deadlines extend and talks go down to the wire.

The package is being widely reported as a "win for Sadiq Khan", as the deal does not include many of the concessions the Tories were pushing for, including the extension of the congestion charge zones, fare increases, and cuts to concessionary travel for under-18s and over-60s.

The government's letter outlining the terms of the settlement continues to bang the "driverless trains" drum, demanding that TfL "works with a government led expert review on the possible implementation of driverless trains." As we all know, this has nothing to do with improving efficiency, safety, or service, and everything to do with the Tories' ideological war against organised labour.

There will undoubtedly be something of a sigh of relief breathed across the job, as the deal is not conditional on the "workplace and pension reform" government figures had been pushing for, and does not include a direct requirement to cut staffing levels. But we can't let our guard down. Both parties, the mayor and the government, acknowledge that there's a £160m shortfall between this package and TfL's projected requirements. This deal makes TfL responsible for making "savings" to cover that shortfall.

Andy Byford, the TfL commissioner, told unions on Sunday 1 November that there will be "no changes to jobs, pay, conditions, and benefits, or breaking of contracts with suppliers" as part of the current funding package. That's an important guarantee, which unions need to be prepared to take action to enforce if bosses appear to renege on it in any way. But this may only have kicked the can down the road. The commissioner said their plans for 2021 would aim to "achieve further efficiencies."

Beyond this bailout, our situation will remain precarious unless the entire funding model is changed. Public transport must be publicly funded, and our unions need to launch a renewed political fight - including within the Labour Party, for those unions that are affiliated - to oppose the Tories' policy that TfL must be "self-financing".

We can also use the fact that we may not be immediately plunged into a defensive struggle against cuts to launch offensive struggles of our own. Tube workers have kept London moving through the pandemic, and, as recent RMT research shows, have delivered year-on-year productivity increases. We must demand improvements such as the equalisation of the two-tier CSA grade on stations, and the in-housing of all outsourced work, especially on contracts such as catering where the private employer is threatening job cuts.

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