TfL funding deal and pensions update 25/02/22
This afternoon the latest details of funding talks between TfL and the Government were announced. An agreement has now been reached that gives just four more months funding, until June 24th, while TfL is expected to identify up to £400 million more in savings. Given the huge level of cuts already made, it is clear that this target just can't be reached.
Instead of the long-term settlement needed for secure investment this is another exercise in kicking the can down the road. Although there is a promise that some capital funding will be agreed in March, it is not clear which projects will be supported, meaning more uncertainty for staff and suppliers.
Despite the political gloss, there is no escape from the political game playing that risks undermining London's recovery from the pandemic.
The nonsense of so called "driverless trains" has also re-appeared even though everyone with any knowledge of the Underground knows that it is completely undeliverable. Currently there is not even funding for modernized signalling on the Piccadilly line, let alone driverless operation.
TfL Pension Scheme.
Although the final report of the TfL Pension Review required by the Government as part of the original funding deal will not be published until the end of March, trade unions have been receiving regular briefings on progress from Brendan Barber and his team.
Rather than propose any one option for changes, I expect that the final report will lay out the implications of a number of different options, including no change, both to the employer and to members of the scheme. It will then be up to TfL to decide which, if any of the options it wants to pursue. They will have to report to the Government on what their plan is and how it will be implemented.
If TfL do push ahead with trying to make changes to the scheme, this would be a complex process. There is strong legal protection for benefits already built up. Even making changes to future benefits will be difficult for them as detrimental changes to the scheme would require agreement on amending the pension fund rules. This could possibly require legislation and involve legal challenges.
ASLEF position remains that we oppose any change to the existing scheme. It is an extremely healthy and well managed fund that will now be in surplus for the first time in many years. The only driver for change is the aim to reduce TfL’s costs at the expense of its employees. We will do whatever we need to, industrially, politically and legally to defend our members.
We will continue to engage with the pension review and via the machinery of negotiation and will not hesitate to use our mandate of action when needed to protect the interests of our members.
Rather than solving the TfL funding crisis, this latest deal simply prolongs it. We will need to be ready to take action and to renew our ballot mandate to make sure we can protect our working conditions and agreements.
As soon as we have further information, we will share this with members.
ASLEF District Organiser.