London Underground strike: Hope for end of dispute after Sadiq Khan indicated he accepted union demands

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The dispute that led to four Tube strikes in three months has come to an end after Sadiq Khan said he accepted union demands not to cut workers’ pensions.

The mayor said he was not convinced that Transport for London’s pension scheme, which cost TfL £401 million in contributions last year, should be curtailed.

No proposals have been made to cut pensions, but it is one of two main concerns – the other being the loss of 600 station staff posts – which will cause the RMT union to shut down the London Underground on March 1 and 3 and June 6 and 21. forced to close.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon as TfL was granted a three-week extension of its current pandemic bailout from the government, Mr Khan told the Standard: “I’m pretty clear I’m not convinced there are reasons to change pensions. of those who work for TfL. It is up to the government to defend the case.

“I’m pretty clear that the way to recognize that the hard work of our transportation workers — the many thousands who have kept our city going — shouldn’t be to make unilateral changes to their terms and conditions.”

Tory critics reacted with concern to the mayor’s comments. London Assembly Member Keith Prince said: “It is disgraceful if Sadiq Khan decides he would rather cut bus routes and other TfL services than save £182 million a year by reforming TfL pensions.”

An independent review commissioned by Mr Khan in 2020 described the pension scheme as “generous” and said reforming it could save £100 million a year by 2025.

But a more comprehensive review, led by former union leader Sir Brendan Barber and published last month, said amending the scheme could save up to £182.4m – but warned that this was “just about the only employment benefit that goes beyond that.” than the salaries and travel expenses of employees concessions” and was much appreciated by the staff.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday evening granted TfL an extension of its financing deal until July 13, but made it clear that he wanted a “relationship reset” with City Hall. TfL is seeking £900 million for the current fiscal year and a long-term capital investment deal.

He accused Mr Khan of “campaigns of scare-mongering and threats”. TfL is advising on the cancellation of 22 bus routes in central London and the reduction of frequencies on nearly 60 others. On Thursday, Mr Khan claimed that without a long-term financing deal for TfL 100 bus routes would have to be scrapped and metro services cut by 10 percent.

He said this would result in a million fewer trips per day on public transport in the capital, leading to a “downtime” on the roads as Londoners returned to their cars, and more toxic air.

He accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Mr Shapps of “treating Londoners with contempt” by failing to secure TfL’s finances. The government has already provided around £5 billion in bailouts.

Mr Khan also pledged to introduce premium Heathrow fares on the Tube and increase deposit on Oyster cards – two fundraising pledges first made in December last year but yet to be implemented.

Mr Khan responded to Mr Shapps in an angry series of late-night tweets – despite a promise in his re-election a year ago to “build bridges” with the government during his second term.

A government source told the Standard Friday: “The mayor’s ‘project fear’ is a bad way to build bridges. Using TfL services as a political weapon is simply not in his or London’s interest.”

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, said the extension was the 11th stop-gap financing arrangement between the government and TfL in just over two years.

He said: “The longer this cycle of short-term thinking continues, the more difficult it will be to affordably maintain and build the capital’s transport system, supporting not only London’s economy in the future, but that of the UK as well. .”

Adam Tyndall, program director for transport at business group London First, said: “Now is the time to put politics aside and prioritize serious negotiations. However, history suggests that an extension of just 19 days is probably not enough, leaving London’s transport on subsistence remains.

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