Putting staff on the London Underground have been given a skinny glimmer of hope, as Sadiq Khan appeared to sign his backing for union calls for to not reduce employees pensions.
The London mayor mentioned on Thursday that he was “not persuaded that there are any grounds to vary the pensions of those that work” for Transport for London (TfL), including: “It’s for the federal government to make the case.”
However his feedback got here as staff “decisively” reaffirmed their backing for additional industrial motion over the long-running dispute, elevating the prospect of additional disruption over the approaching months.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) are set to press forward with their third nationwide strike this week on Saturday, whereas Tube staff staged separate walkouts in March and June.
However by legislation, the RMT needed to reballot its members for his or her assist to proceed with future strikes, and greater than 90 per cent of those that voted on a 53 per cent turnout backed future industrial motion – handing the union a authorized mandate for motion to proceed into December.
Whereas no new strike dates have been set, they are going to be determined by the union’s govt in the end.
RMT normal secretary Mick Lynch hailed “a incredible consequence for our members” which he mentioned “proves that the arguments RMT has been making is endorsed by Tube staff”.
Mr Lynch mentioned: “We’re conscious about the funding cuts being foisted on TfL by the Westminster authorities.
“Nevertheless, Mayor Sadiq Khan must mount a severe marketing campaign for the individuals of London, to get the capital metropolis the funding it deserves for its public transport. He shouldn’t be attempting to sacrifice our members’ pensions and jobs to suit inside funds restraints laid down by Boris Johnson.”
As a situation of the federal government’s Covid bail-out for London’s transport operator final 12 months, TfL was informed to hold out a evaluation of its pension scheme and reform choices.
In a ensuing evaluation commissioned by Mr Khan, former union boss Sir Brendan Barber recognized TfL’s pensions scheme as “the one advantage of substance (aside from pay) on supply to TfL workers” and a “extremely valued asset throughout all sections of the workforce”.
Whereas Sir Brendan advised that alterations to the pensions scheme may save between £79.3m and £182.4m per 12 months, he didn’t make any express suggestion that the scheme – which he mentioned was “very properly run with a classy funding technique” – ought to be reformed.
Sir Brendan warned that “have been any path to vary be embarked upon, it will be years, not months, earlier than any change could possibly be applied and probably longer nonetheless earlier than the results of any price financial savings could possibly be felt”, and would “require a serious function” by central authorities.
Whereas no adjustments to the scheme have but been proposed, and any future reforms could be topic to session with all stakeholders together with unions and employees, placing TfL staff need ensures that staff’ pensions will likely be protected – in addition to pledges over tons of of feared job cuts.
Mr Khan’s feedback on pensions on Thursday got here as he accused transport secretary Grant Shapps of “zero engagement” over TfL’s funding disaster, and warned that with no long-term funding plan Londoners would see a ten per cent discount in underground providers – equal to a complete Tube line – and the lack of greater than 100 bus routes.
TfL is likely one of the solely transport authorities on this planet to not obtain a direct authorities grant for operating prices, The Impartial has been informed. A fourth Covid bail-out deal in February included the potential for a longer-term funding association “depending on the mayor and TfL’s co-operation with the federal government”.
“Extra short-term extensions with no promise of any extra long-term funding merely doesn’t reduce it,” the mayor mentioned on Thursday, warning of a “managed decline” of the community, “gridlocked roads” and “poisonous air air pollution” if ministers “proceed to refuse to offer a good funding deal”.
He urged the prime minister and Mr Shapps “to cease taking part in politics with a difficulty of such nice nationwide significance” and “cease levelling down London to attempt to acquire political assist elsewhere, and begin working with me in good religion”.
However Mr Shapps mentioned suggesting an absence of engagement was “deceptive” and claimed Mr Khan had failed to offer proof required to progress talks.
DfT officers have met TfL counterparts “regularly to try to agree this deal and the mayor is properly conscious of this”, Mr Shapps mentioned, including: “To counsel anything is just not true and an try to deflect from his incapability to responsibly handle the capital’s transport funds, regardless of receiving nearly £5bn of presidency bailouts.”
In the meantime, Saturday will see the third day of nationwide strike motion on British railways this week, with solely a fifth of providers set to run and half of strains to be closed as 40,000 RMT members stroll out over a dispute with Community Rail and 13 practice operators over jobs, pay, pensions and circumstances.