Labour MPs lined up in support of Transport for London (TfL) and transport workers at a major demonstration outside parliament today.
Transport unions TSSA, Aslef, RMT, Unite and ITF showed a strong united front jointly organising the ‘Save London’s Public Transport’ demonstration. Held in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, just before one of the biggest set-pieces of the political week – Prime Minister’s Questions – the air rang with chants of ‘save our services’, ‘no to cuts’ and ‘public transport is our transport’.
Newly-appointed Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh – who only took up the role on Monday following Labour’s reshuffle – gave a fighting message of solidarity. “I will stand with you on picket lines” she told the trade union and media crowd who applauded her speech, delivered over a handheld megaphone. “It’s not about pitting London against the north. This is a national priority” she said.
Among the snapping of photographers, TSSA Organising Director Luke Chester took his turn on the megaphone, saying: “Public transport is magical, but that magic is delivered by hard working staff across the network.” In a rallying message building on those given by other union speakers, he told the cheering crowd that “TSSA is getting ballot ready and we will take action side by side with our sister unions to fight these cuts”, with a reminder that TSSA is the biggest union in TfL.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for TfL is Ilford South MP Sam Tarry, who has a long and close relationship with TSSA, previously serving as the union’s Political Officer. “This government is pitching workers in the north against those in the south” he said. “I will not let there be a false choice between London and the north. TfL supports 50,000 jobs in the north in supply chains. It’s a false and divisive argument from a false and divisive government. I’ll be there every step of the way with you and we will win.”
Veteran Labour MP John McDonnell told the crowd that this was his “second picket line of the day” and gave a strong message of solidarity to transport workers and the unions and communities fighting against politically-motivated cuts to London’s transport network.
Also spotted in the crowd were former Labour Party Chair Ian Lavery, former Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, current Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi and a wide range of Labour MPs, including Kim Johnson, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Marsha de Cordova, Sarah Champion, Apsana Begum, Imran Hussein, Rachel Hopkins, and London Assembly member Elly Baker.
The demonstration was held with just ten days to go until TfL’s current short-term and strings attached funding from government runs out on 11 December. The transport operator is facing dire financial straights following a deal done by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor which cut central funding for TfL, leaving London as the only major city in the world without central funding for its transport system. As passenger numbers – and along with it fare revenue – have plummeted during the pandemic, TfL is now actively considering cutting services – including potentially entire tube lines and bus routes to meet the funding cuts.
TSSA, other unions, communities and MPs are calling for a fair funding settlement for TfL which protects jobs and services.
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