Bus drivers threaten New Year strikes that will cripple London

Transport workers, including London bus drivers are preparing for a general strike in the New Year.

The strike threat from Unite the Union comes as Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport squabble over a fourth TfL funding deal.

The union says that cuts to TfL pensions and pay will lead to strike ballots in the New Year, bringing major disruption to the transport network.

Unite is London’s largest transport union, representing 22,000 London bus workers and 2,000 workers employed by TfL and London Underground.

Bus drivers are angry over plans to make them sign on for their shifts at bus stops, rather than depots – a move called “remote sign on” that Unite says will hit drivers pay.

TfL staff who could strike in the New Year include Underground engineers, Dial-a-Ride drivers, ticket inspectors, Victoria Coach station staff, and station managers.

TfL is in need of funds after fare income plunged during the pandemic, with its latest funding deal running out in just two weeks.

Unions fear that bus and underground services could be slashed without urgent government investment to plug a £1.9bn funding gap.

Unite is calling for long term funding for TfL from central government. And the union wants to see workers’ pensions and conditions removed from funding negotiations between TfL and the DfT.

Peter Kavanagh, the Unite London and Eastern regional secretary, said: “London’s four transport unions are united when we say that our members’ terms and conditions are not on the table. Our members must not be made to pay for this crisis.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Boris Johnson’s government is risking the biggest industrial unrest in TfL’s history over his funding squeeze and attack on staff pensions and conditions.

“Under no circumstances will we tolerate our members being made to pay the price of the pandemic with cuts to their jobs, pay and conditions.”

The Mayor of London’s office has been critical of RMT’s strike plans on the Underground, telling the union to negotiate instead.

Four transport unions will descend on Parliament next Wednesday to demand extra government funding for TfL.