TfL staff must not be used as pawns in the Governments' political game.
Over recent days it has been obvious that the talks on future funding for TfL are not going well. The Transport Secretary is still refusing to share the report he commissioned from management consultants KPMG, a clear sign that he is not acting in good faith. Even senior management have only been allowed to see a small part of it.
Instead of trying to do what is best for London, the Government are playing a political game. They want to force the Mayor to introduce policies that would be widely unpopular, like increased council tax and extending the congestion charge zone, as well as removing free travel from children and older people. Their aim is clearly to damage him politically in the run up to the next Mayoral election.
The Government is also insisting on attaching conditions to any funding agreement that directly affect our members; unspecified workforce and pension “modernisation” and speeding up the introduction of Boris Johnson's long held and completely unrealistic fantasy of driverless trains.
Despite the dishonest claims of the Prime Minister, neither the Mayor nor TfL staff are responsible for the current crises. TfL’s income collapsed as passengers stopped using the Tube and Buses at the start of the pandemic. Although numbers have increased since then, there is still only around 32% of normal passenger levels on the tube and around 50% on London’s busses.
This time last year around £13 million a day was being collected in fares; this year it is around £5 million a day.
As around 80% of TfL revenue comes from fares, this had had a disastrous impact on the organization’s finances. A short-term funding settlement was agreed earlier in the year, but this money effectively runs out over the next two weeks.
That is why it so important that the Government agree to provide the funding needed, just as they have for privately run Train Operating companies who have not had to face any conditions at all and are guaranteed to make a profit from public subsidy.
If no agreement is reached, then the options seem to be that either the Department for Transport takes direct control of TfL, or that TfL is forced to drastically reduce expenditure. This would mean cuts to investment and to services.
Transport Commissioner Andy Byford acknowledged yesterday that the Trade Unions have played a constructive role throughout the pandemic. We will continue to do so, but we will also do what we need to do, to protect our members terms and conditions at work.
The salaries, pensions and working conditions of the staff who keep our city moving must not be used as sacrificial pawns in the Governments' political games. We will, of course work with the other trade unions and everyone else who wants to protect public transport in London, but ASLEF members are determined to protect their agreements and we have a mandate to do so.
We are continuing to meet regularly with both TfL management and City Hall to make sure our members position is clearly understood. As soon as we get any information on developments, we will update members.
ASLEF District Organiser.