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Battle for London's transport [print version]

Buses in Bexleyheath, south London. Steep cuts to services are threatened. Photo Stephen M Brooks/shutterstock.com.

London Transport union RMT has begun balloting over 10,000 members across all grades after Transport for London (TfL) refused to give assurances on jobs, pensions and working conditions in the midst of an ongoing financial crisis driven by central government. 

TfL has announced plans to axe 600 staff posts in what the union says is the opening shot in a programme of jobs carnage that will target safety critical station grades.

The union says that it will be campaigning for a massive yes vote in the ballot. It has vowed to take whatever action is necessary to prevent staff paying the price for a financial crisis that is not of their making. The ballot closes on 10 January. 

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 RMT also says it will coordinate a campaign of resistance with colleagues from other unions.

At the start of the Covid crisis measures in March 2020, the numbers of travellers suddenly collapsed on both bus and tube, though they rose significantly in recent months as more people returned to work in workplaces. (Of course they will fall again now that the government has called for a return to home working.) 

TfL entered the Covid crisis measures with a massive reliance on fares revenue: about 72 pence in every pound spent on London’s transport network came from fares – roughly double the 38 per cent in New York and Paris.

• A longer analysis of this dispute is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.