Socialist Worker

Tube strikes can derail Tory plans for raft of attacks

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2757

Tube workers during a strike in 2018

Tube workers during a strike in 2018 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

London Underground workers are preparing to fight Tory plans to push through huge cuts, attacks on workers and efforts to undermine trade union power.

The Tories and London mayor Sadiq Khan agreed an emergency funding agreement for Transport for London (TfL) this week. The government will inject just over £1 billion, bringing the total funding to £4 billion since the pandemic hit and fare revenues collapsed.

But there are harsh conditions. In return for the bailout money, ministers are demanding annual cuts of £300 million and work to introduce driverless trains on the Piccadilly and Waterloo and City lines.

Tube worker and RMT union member Phil told Socialist Worker driverless trains on the Piccadilly line are an “expensive pipe dream”.

“It would require massive amounts of construction work, costing billions and billions and it wouldn’t be ready until around the 2040s,” he said.

The Tories want to push through several attacks on Tube workers.

Phil explained how they view workers pensions as “too generous”.

“We expect attacks on our pensions but the union will be balloting in response,” he added. “Ever since Boris Johnson became London Mayor the grant TfL received from government has been reduced.

“Now the Tube is funded on the basis of revenue, which is especially hard during the pandemic.”


Ministers say TfL must continue to operate as a business and find an extra £500 million to £1 billion each year through fare rises and attacks on workers.

Khan claimed he had “seen off the worst of the conditions the government wanted to impose on London.” These would “not only have required huge cuts to transport services equivalent to cancelling one in five bus routes or closing a tube line”.

But the concessions still attack workers as the cost of living in London increases.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “This is a disgraceful stitch up of a deal. It will be resisted by our members whether it comes from Whitehall or City Hall through London wide industrial action if necessary.

“It is completely unacceptable for transport workers who have risked and in some cases tragically lost their lives to now be asked to pay this political price for the coronavirus.

“Attacks on workers pensions are wholly unacceptable while driverless trains are unwanted, unaffordable and unsafe.

"With funding only lasting until December London is being held to ransom with a gun to its head.”

Khan isn’t going to hold off the Tories' attacks, which are a threat to every Tube worker. All the Tube workers’ union, the RMT, Aslef and TSSA, should find disputes across the network and ballot workers for strikes.

The threat of a united shutdown—just as ministers push for a wider reopening of the economy—would send a powerful message to the Tories. 

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