Although the current funding agreement between the Government and TfL was due to expire on Saturday December 11th, this has now been extended for another week.
It is an absolutely ridiculous situation that the public transport system in a major world city, vital to the entire national economy, is existing on short term handouts with no stable financial settlement in place. The consequences of this are becoming clearer every day.
Investment in long term projects, from station upgrades to new signalling and step free access, are being abandoned. Last week London Underground announced that it is cutting at least five hundred jobs on stations. But that is just the start. They want to cut a similar number of drivers jobs, while cuts to future investment will mean around a thousand more roles go in engineering and other functions.
An efficient, reliable, and affordable public transport system is not a luxury. If London’s economy is to recover from the pandemic, it is an absolute necessity; Without it, we can never meet carbon reduction targets and our streets become ever more clogged and polluted.
Without a constant stream of investment to renew and modernise old assets, the system quickly becomes dilapidated and unreliable. Passenger numbers fall even further, and we enter a cycle of decline as it becomes ever more expensive to maintain ageing infrastructure.
It is long past time that the Government stopped playing political games and agreed a long term funding package. The alternative is a public transports system that is less safe, less accessible, and more expensive for everyone who uses it.
TfL Pension Review.
On Friday, the interim report of the TfL Pension Review was published. This set out a list of options that will be considered before the final report and recommendations are published at the end of March.
The report acknowledged that the current fund is healthy and well managed. The only reason for the review is that the government insisted on it as a condition of the original funding package.
On a positive note, the interim report accepted that any move to a “defined contribution scheme” would not be in line with the reviews remit and it will not consider this option further. (“Defined contribution” means that there is no guarantee of the pension amount you receive as it is entirely dependent on investment returns).
In the next stage, the review will look in detail at four options; making no change to the current scheme, retaining the current scheme with changes to benefits, moving to a career average scheme or a career average scheme with different contribution rates.
Career average schemes are referred to as CARE schemes (Career Average Revalued Earnings). The amount of pension benefit you earn is linked to your salary each year, rather than your final salary and is increased (revalued) each year to protect against inflation.
ASLEF’s position is that we oppose any change to the current scheme. Pensions are deferred wages, money that you earn now but receive in retirement. Any cut to your pension benefits is in effect a wage cut.
ASLEF will continue to actively engage to make sure our members interests are protected, and that decent working conditions and benefits are maintained for the future. Our ballot result earlier this year means that we have a mandate to take action to make sure that any changes to agreements, working conditions or pension benefits are made only by agreement.
We recognise the reality of the financial situation caused by the pandemic and are prepared to negotiate and seek solutions that also bring benefits to our members. But we will never accept changes being imposed.
The government and TfL senior management need to realise that staff will not sacrifice our pay and conditions or allow them to be used as political footballs. We have worked hard to achieve decent standards and we are determined to maintain them.
ASLEF District Organiser.