London transport cuts - "we must all fight back"
By Mel Taylor, TSSA lead organiser for TfL
Last night thousands attended the RMT’s rally to save London’s transport services from cuts imposed on London by central government.
Among the speakers was Senator Bernie Sanders.
Reproduced below is the speech by Mel Taylor, the TSSA’s lead organiser for Transport for London, who set out very clearly the issues for London’s transport budget. In her speech she confirmed that the TSSA is now preparing to ballot across TfL services.
Thanks to Mel Taylor for allowing this to be shared via Modern Left.
By Mel Taylor, TSSA lead organiser for TfL
Thank you to RMT for organising this important event, and to everyone that has taken the time to join us tonight.
TSSA represents members across Transport for London, London Underground, London Overground and the Elizabeth Line.
We’re in a desperate situation in London.
I want to emphasise today the consequences of the Government’s chronic under-funding of London’s transport. The Government funding deal announced yesterday forces TfL to make hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts over the next 19 months. This is on top of over £700 million of cuts already baked into their budget.
We need to re-set the narrative
The government is pushing the line that the Labour Mayor has mismanaged London’s finances and, as a result of the pandemic, had to go begging to central government.
This is not true. To set the record straight – Transport for London (TfL) has been deliberately underfunded for years as a result of a dodgy deal between then-Chancellor George Osborne and then-Mayor Boris Johnson which cut public funding of TfL by £700 million per year.
As a result TfL faced a 37% cut to their budget in just five years. A crisis waiting to happen well before the pandemic.
This situation is not normal
London is the only major city in the world that does not consistently subsidise its public transport. TfL is forced to rely upon passenger fare income to fund seventy-two per cent of its costs. By comparison, fares income covers only thirty-eight per cent of transport network costs in New York and in Paris, with public funds providing the remainder.
This is nonsensical. It’s clear that moving people around the capital efficiently is vital to London’s and the UK’s economy.
London needs affordable, accessible public transport. Shifting away from private vehicles and onto clean public transport will reduce the use of fossil fuels which are expensive, in short supply and bad for the environment.
What is the impact on passengers?
Chronic underfunding of TfL is putting services, accessibility and safety at risk. Cuts to bus services are already in the pipeline. Additional London Overground services to be introduced this year have been shelved. London Underground is forging ahead with plans to cut six hundred front line customer service roles which is, frankly, an accident waiting to happen. Already stations are regularly left unstaffed and at times closed completely, particularly in outer zones.
We have been warned that fare rises in London could be “unprecedented” next year, with fourteen per cent being quoted. It is outrageous that the government is trying to pass the cost of getting to work onto passengers at a time when the public are under extreme financial pressure and the economy is trying to recover.
What is the impact on staff?
As well as front line workers, TSSA middle and back office staff, and I want to pay tribute to those who work behind the scenes.
They are the people who:
run the control centres that keep road networks running
they deliver transport services for elderly and disabled passengers
run the Lost Property service
ensure the safety of TfL staff and passengers
And so much more.
These staff have had below inflation pay rises or even pay freezes since 2015. Salaries have fallen behind by over twenty per cent in the last seven years, meaning staff are effectively working day a week for free! They are also working harder because there have been job cuts of 20-30 per cent. Thousands of jobs cut.
The new funding deal means another two years of well below inflation pay rises and includes a major attack on staff pensions, seeking to cut TfL’s contributions by over £100 million per year.
Meanwhile, pay talks at London Overground have been stalled by direct intervention from central government, seeking “productivity gains”, or as we know it, job cuts.
We must all fight back. We are fighting back!
Several of our sister unions have already taken action across London transport. I’m here today to say that TSSA is working alongside and with other unions, preparing to ballot across TfL services.
All workers deserve decent pay and terms and conditions. We all need affordable, accessible public transport in London. We all have a part to play in fighting for them.
Watch the full rally here.