RAIL unions have pledged mass industrial action in response to the Tory attacks on the jobs, pay and pensions of workers at TfL (Transport for London).
Over a 60% decline in travel on public transport during the pandemic lockdown has seen the revenue from fares collapsing, forcing TfL to rely on bail-outs from the government to keep going.
With TfL urgently requiring emergency funding until 11 December, the Tories are determined that transport workers bear the cost of the £1 billion they are prepared to inject to keep the service from going bust.
Under the strings the Tories are insisting on, is that TfL produce a business case for driverless trains on the underground system.
They are also demanding that TfL make £300 million of annual cuts, along with slashing the pensions of workers.
On top of all this, the Tories are insisting that TfL must find increased revenue of between £500million and £1billion each year from 2023 – something that can only be achieved through massive fare increases – along with a review of service levels.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also insisting that TfL obey the Tory two year pay freeze for all transport workers.
London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, has ‘reluctantly’ agreed to these conditions although he insists he will fight moves to introduce driverless trains, which he opposes purely on the grounds of cost.
The rail unions have made it clear that they are not prepared to accept any of these strings.
TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: ‘The pandemic had the same devastating impact on the finances of TfL as on the privatised rail companies. Yet TfL have had to beg for scraps of funding, which come with draconian conditions attached whilst the private rail companies have been bailed out for 18 months with no strings attached. It’s one rule for the fat cat shareholders in train operating companies and another for publicly owned Transport for London!’
In fact the privatised train companies made a fortune out of coronavirus bailouts from the Tories with a guarantee of profits equivalent to 2% of their operating costs.
It is estimated that over £5 billion of public money has been handed to the privateers during the pandemic – money that will never be paid back.
Cortes added: ‘These brutal cuts will hit TfL hard. But our union is crystal clear, any attempt to use compulsory redundancies to implement these cuts will be met with industrial action ballots.’
Unite was equally intransigent, making it clear that it will not accept any cuts to members’ terms and conditions, including pensions.
Unite regional officer Simon McCartney said: ‘The plan to attack workers’ pensions is particularly worrying. Pensions are a worker’s deferred wages and any attempted changes will be fully resisted by Unite.’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch joined the condemnation and the pledge to take industrial action to defeat the Tory war on transport workers, saying: ‘This is a disgraceful stitch up of a deal and it will be resisted by our members whether it comes from Whitehall or City Hall through London-wide industrial action if necessary.’
The Tory plans for TfL are an attack on workers who are expected to pay for the massive government debt run up bailing out bankrupt British capitalism, while the private companies and their shareholders walk away with billions in profit from taxpayer bailouts.
The members of the transport unions must insist that their leaders make good on their pledges to call London-wide strike action to defeat the Tory plans.
In fact, given that this is not an attack confined to one section of workers in London but is part of a national war by the Tories on every worker in the country, the unions must demand the TUC mobilise the entire working class in a national general strike to kick out this Tory government and bring in a workers government and socialism.
A workers’ government will restore public ownership to the railways and all public services placing them under the management of the working class as part of building a planned socialist economy.
This is the way forward.