London’s transport network is likely to be disrupted by further strike action, as unions fight back against Transport for London’s plans to slash hundreds of jobs.
Transport bosses recently outlined plans to shed up to 600 positions, savings which they say will mitigate the effects of the pandemic on London’s finances. The positions are in customer service, where about 250 jobs are currently unfilled. TfL is considering imposing a recruitment freeze on customer services jobs, losing a further 350 posts as and when staff leave.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union said TfL’s proposals are the opening shot in a programme of ‘jobs carnage’ that will target positions which are critical to the safety of Tube stations.
The RMT union confirmed on Tuesday (7 December) it will begin a ballot of over 10,000 members across all membership grades. The union says it will be campaigning for a yes vote in the strike ballot and made clear that it will take ‘whatever action necessary to prevent staff paying the price for a financial crisis that is not of their making.’ The ballot will close on 10 January.
TfL said discussions were still at an early stage, but insisted the underground would remain well staffed, with more than 4,500 customer service staff remaining across the network.
Strikes have already been called over changes to working conditions involving the Night Tube. RMT members on affected lines are walking out on Friday and Saturday evening shifts every weekend until Christmas. A 24-hour strike is also scheduled for 18 December.
Image above: Tube trains line up at Northfields switching station
TfL’s financial woes make cuts ‘urgently necessary‘
TfL has lost billions in tube fares since passengers were told to avoid public transport at the start of the pandemic. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has appealed to the Government for more emergency funding to cover the shortfall in revenue.
Talks have started between TfL and the Government before an 11 December deadline, when the current deal runs out. TfL is looking for a further £1.7bn in funding until April 2023 and under the existing settlement it has already committed to reduced expenditure.
While demand has come back to around 60% of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, a TfL report on travel trends published this week said that demand may stay below previous forecasts. The expected rise in journeys after “freedom day” in July when Covid restrictions were lifted.
TfL have said 84% of workers expect to have some form of hybrid working in future, with only about 70% of people yet returning to city workplaces at all.
Nick Dent, London Underground’s director of customer operations, said:
“The devastating impact of the pandemic on our finances has made a programme of change urgently necessary.
“The safety and security of customers and colleagues is still our top priority, and we will ensure in all circumstances our staff will continue to be visible and available to help customers at all times – including offering the on-demand turn up and go service to assist disabled customers.”
Crisis ‘cynically engineered’ by Government
General Secretary Mick Lynch said:
“A financial crisis at TFL has been deliberately engineered by the Government to drive a cuts agenda which would savage jobs, services, safety and threaten the working conditions and pensions of our members.
“Today we have seen the opening salvo in what will become an all out assault on safety critical staff posts with 600 jobs on the block, mainly amongst our station members.
“The ballot opens Monday and we will be campaigning for a massive yes vote. The politicians need to wake up to the fact that transport staff will not pay the price for this cynically engineered crisis and we will coordinate a campaign of resistance with colleagues from other unions impacted by this threat.”
Planned strike action
- 8.30pm 10 December – 4.29am 11 December Central and Victoria.
- 8.30pm 11 December – 4.29am 12 December Central and Victoria.
- 8.30pm 17 December – 4.29am 18 December Central and Victoria.
- 4.30am 18 December – 4.29am 19 December Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria.
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