Pandemics, politics, and bailouts. Underground staff should not be pawns in politicians games.
While it is good that a deal between Tfl and the Government has averted an immediate crisis on the London transport system, as more details emerge it is clear that passengers and staff will be expected to pay a heavy price. In the initial weeks of the Covid-19 crises, public transport workers were praised as heroes as they left the safety of their own homes so that other essential workers could do their jobs. Forty-two Transport for London workers have lost their life so far in this pandemic; a truly shocking figure.
But now that the Government line has changed, we are no longer called heroes. We are back to being branded obstructive trade unionists because we insist on our right to be safe in the workplace and not to be exposed unnecessarily to infection.
This deal is as the Mayor says, just a sticking plaster. It allows services to keep running for a few more months while negotiations continue on a long-term settlement. Parts of it are clearly just political fluff; insisting that Tfl report attendance figured that are publicly available anyway is simply fodder for the Mail and Standard who don’t believe the servant classes should ever be allowed to get sick.
There is no hiding the seriousness of the problems to come. TfL had already reduced its costs by over one billion pounds over the last few years. Thousands of jobs had been cut before this crisis started. There is no easy fat to cut, no low hanging fruit. A £500 million loan means more debt to be repaid, more cuts to be made.
And fare revenue is not going to magically increase to fill the hole. Tourist and leisure traffic will not be returning any time soon. We are in a major recession that will have a massive impact on the finances of all public transport operators. Commuter journeys and advertising revenue will fall as jobs are lost. More people working from home means fewer tickets bought and less revenue for retail outlets who pay rent for their station locations.
Selling off assets in the middle of a recession would not only be stupid; it would also undermine plans to build social housing and long-term revenue streams from land development.
And I want to be absolutely explicit about this. Underground staff will not be prepared to pay through cuts to working conditions, pay, pensions or benefits for the costs of this crises. We have fought long and hard to be able to provide a decent living standard for our families. We will be ready to fight as hard as we need to maintain that for the future.
Already the Tory supporting press are targeting teachers who want to be safe in the classroom and NHS workers who have bravely spoken out about the lack of PPE. Expect a large dose of the same coming to tube workers and unions soon
At the start of the crises the Chancellor said that he would do whatever was needed to support the economy. To support London’s economy and its key workers, our transport system needs proper long term funding, not political posturing.