Tory government exploiting TfL financial crisis

23rd December 2020

Dear colleagues,

An update for all TfL and London Underground members:


As you know, the pandemic has seen a collapse in TfL's income, which for years now has been over-reliant on passenger fares.


This Tory government has also exploited the crisis at TfL by keeping London's transport system reliant on drip feeds of government funding while taking greater control of the capital in the hope of winning the Mayoralty next year. The government and its supporters have also indulged themselves in more attacks on workers and the public through trying to tie desperately needed public funding to packages of austerity cuts. 


Throughout this process, your RMT representatives in London have been absolutely steadfast in stating that our members will not be made to pay for another crisis that is not of their making, through which they have put their lives on the line to keep the capital moving. We will stand together as a union because an injury to one is an injury to all.


I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on what your union has been doing, in addition to regularly meeting with management in the machinery of collective bargaining throughout London Underground and TfL.


RMT: campaigning for public transport staff in London


·        In July, we supported the London Transport Regional Council's Regional Rally for proper TfL funding.


·        In September, we published our alternative vision for a public transport system in London. 'A Future for Public Transport in London' set out the case against the historic de-staffing of the Underground and Rail networks in London and for investing in staff to rebuild public transport after the pandemic. You can read our submission here.  


·         In the weeks before the October announcement of the second bailout package, RMT published research showing that Londoners were being offered 22 times less funding per passenger kilometre than was being given to the Train Operating Companies.  


·        We followed that with research showing the productivity gains you've delivered in the last 10 years and highlighting the importance of staff to rebuilding passenger confidence - a point subsequently confirmed by TfL in their own research.  


·        That week, we also joined 13 other unions and civil society groups in calling on the Prime Minister to stop the austerity cuts and give London a fair funding settlement.


·         RMT has also contributed to a London Travelwatch consultation on the future of the capital's transport network.

In all these interventions, our key message has been that if we want a progressive public transport system that supports decarbonisation and improving air quality in the capital, we must have a long-term funding settlement, an end to the cost-cutting culture and greater investment in staff. 

In-sourcing London Underground cleaners:

Throughout this period we have never stopped in our campaign to win justice for Underground cleaners - building political support and piling public pressure on the Mayor to bring this contract in-house in 2022. You can read more about this here.  Most recently, I wrote to the Guardian to point out to them the exploitation of the 'unsung heroes' whose work they recently covered. Rest assured, this campaign will be built to new levels in the new year.

TfL's Independent Review

As I've already reported, the NEC has now viewed the Independent Review of TfL's finances, commissioned by the Mayor. This document is likely to inform TfL's negotiating position with the government when it seeks further funding in the New Year.


It is interesting that the review made some important points about staff. Firstly, it did not recommend an austerity package of significant cuts to services and jobs as a way of restoring sustainability, saying instead that “achieving net savings of the level required would necessitate cuts that are too deep” and would be counter-productive. Secondly, they admitted that TfL workers' pay is not  out of line with comparators, while London Underground workers in particular have delivered significant productivity gains.


However, the review failed to make the case for re-establishing TfL's finances on the basis of public funding, instead arguing for tapering funding out in favour of local taxation. Dangerously, it not only failed to rule out any future service cuts, but recommended looking at future reductions if passenger demand proves to be reduced in the long term, saying that 'the volume of service provided on these networks is a major driver of costs. TfL should look at services changes as a way of closing the funding gap given reduced demand once social distancing is no longer needed.'


Most disgracefully, however, the report's authors made an outright attack on the TfL pension scheme, calling for 'reform', echoing in the process unfounded attacks from the Tory Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey.


I believe these comments are outrageous. The TfL pension scheme is a well-funded and perfectly healthy scheme and it's a vital part of the pay package for transport workers who have worked heroically throughout this crisis, keeping Londoners safe and moving through the capital. To use the crisis in TfL's finances as an excuse to attack your pensions is cynical and opportunistic.


Sadiq Khan is under no obligation to accept the recommendations of this review and RMT will be lobbying the Mayor to reject any attacks on service levels or our members' pensions. I want to be crystal clear with members that your union will be absolutely resolute in opposing any and all attempts to degrade the TfL pension scheme and make you pay for a crisis not of our making, wherever it comes from. RMT will meet any challenge with a full campaign of political, public and, if necessary, industrial pressure.


I will, of course, fully update you further in the New Year.

Yours sincerely,

Mick Cash
General Secretary