London workers prepare to fight Khan’s transport cuts

by Berkay Kartav, London Socialist Party

The Tory government and Transport for London (TfL) have reached a new agreement to implement more savage cuts to the jobs, pay, and terms and conditions of TfL workers, in return for a further £1.08 billion bailout. This deal secures funding only until late 2021, and more attacks on the workforce will be on the horizon in seven months’ time.

Outrageously, on top of the cuts already announced during the pandemic as part of a previous bailout, the new funding deal will lead to an additional £900 million worth of cuts this year alone.

Photo: Petr Kratochvil/CC

In addition to imposing a pay freeze on workers employed directly by TfL, by next March TfL will make proposals to slash transport workers’ pensions, which could mean higher pension contributions by workers and a higher retirement age.

Another condition for the financial package is implementing a plan for TfL to begin operating driverless trains on London Underground, starting with the Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines. This is yet another attack on the militant workforce.

The transport union RMT is preparing to ballot its members and take industrial action to defend their jobs, pay, pensions and working conditions against the attacks launched by the Tories and accepted by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, who also serves as TfL chair. Coordinated trade union action is vital to immediately counter these attacks.

But industrial struggle should also be linked with political struggle. We need a political strategy not only to defend RMT members’ pay and conditions, but to go on the offensive and fight for environmentally friendly and affordable public transport.

TfL’s broken funding model was not sustainable even before the pandemic. But with the sharp reduction in fare revenue, the funding crisis has been exacerbated.

What has Khan done other than pleading to the Tories for extra funding? Nothing. In fact, Khan and TfL have now made a commitment to self-funding by 2023, and they are expected to raise revenue by between £0.5 billion to £1 billion every year from 2023 onwards.

There can be no trust in Khan and the Labour Party to take a fighting stance to win the necessary funding for London’s transport.

The Labour mayor has consistently attacked workers throughout the last five years, and continues to implement cuts on behalf of the Tories without offering any meaningful opposition. The deal he has signed up to is appalling, even by his own standards.

In May’s elections, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – which the Socialist Party is part of, alongside the RMT and others – stood in the London elections to challenge Khan and offer a socialist alternative. The attacks on the transport workers and other sections of the working class show the burning need to build a new mass workers’ party with a fighting socialist programme.