Unite the strikes, reject the cuts, fight for funding
Sadiq Khan, London’ s Labour mayor and chair of Transport for London (TfL), has signed off on fare rises and service cuts for passengers as well as attacks on transport workers’ pensions and job security.
In return for a £1.2 billion bailout, Khan has agreed to up to £1 billion of ‘savings’ on top of the already agreed £730 million of cuts. This announcement will only add fuel to the anger of workers already taking strike action — on the Underground, Overground and the buses.
Khan said: “We have had no choice but to accept in order to get the deal over the line to avoid TfL becoming bankrupt”. But this is not the case — as Onay Kasab, national bus lead officer for Unite explained, addressing the RMT-organised ‘Save London’s Public Transport’ rally on 31 August. We print an edited version of his speech:
“I want to talk about the solutions. Because workers, all of our members, have the answers. The answers are provided by strikers like Unite London bus workers at Abelio who are about to start a ballot. Not just on pay, not just on scheduling, but against cuts to bus routes as well…
“Workers at RATP… have been taking strike action against a company that has made £174 million in profits in 2021. So don’t let them tell us, and I don’t think we would believe them anyway, that there is no money. The problem is, there is lots of money, the wrong people have it, and they’ve got too much of it.
“Our members in north London at Arriva are about to finish a ballot, our members at Metroline, Stagecoach and Go Ahead are about to start industrial action ballots. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all those campaigns, all those strikes, coordinated across London?
“The answer was provided by people at Unite policy conference, who voted to agree to call on local authorities to agree balanced, needs-based, no-cuts budgets. If it is appropriate for local authorities, then it is appropriate for the GLA [Greater London Assembly] and it’s appropriate for TfL as well.
“No-cuts budgets, plug immediate gaps with borrowing while the Labour-led GLA joins with the trade unions and the communities to fight for the necessary funding. It’s not rocket science. The answers, the solutions are there.
“No secret negotiations to return a cuts agenda. Get the government to fill the funding gap. Our policy is to fight. Don’t lobby the government, don’t lobby the Tories. Do what trade unionists are doing and fight back against the bastards!
“The answer… is nationalisation. Insource public transport — run for need, not for profit — a responsibility to workers and communities, not shareholders.
“But not a bosses’ nationalisation. Not compensation to shareholders; not a socialism for the rich; not nationalising the debt and then privatising the profit, nationalising in bad times and privatising again in the good times. We want proper insourcing and nationalisation!
“We celebrated when our members on the Woolwich ferry were insourced. But that celebration was short-lived when we saw the way that TfL were treating our members. As a result, our members on the Woolwich ferry are yet again balloting for industrial action.
“Here’s a radical thought: yes to nationalisation, but how about insourcing the public transport system and giving workers, trade unions, communities, democratic control over how its run!”