7,000 London transport workers furloughed should act as ‘a spur’ for government financial rescue package, says Unite

The decision today (Friday 24 April) by Transport for London (TfL) to furlough about 7,000 staff should spur the government to intervene with a substantial financial package to support the capital’s transport network through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

The call came from Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, which has about 2,700 members across all areas of TfL, following fares across the capital’s network plunging by 90 per cent due to coronavirus.

Unite regional officer for TfL, Simon McCartney, said: “This news was not unexpected given that London mayor Sadiq Khan had warned earlier this week that TfL was running out of money as commuters stay-at-home and London’s lucrative tourist industry has all but ceased.

“Unite, and the other transport unions, have been in regular dialogue with TfL management and the mayor and we are pleased that those 7,000 staff, who will be furloughed, will receive 100 per cent of pay, including pension contributions.

“However, this situation has been on the cards for the last month and the news today should act as a spur for the government to provide a substantial financial package for TfL not just in the short-term, but in the longer term, as the mayor indicates, it won’t be business as normal once the lockdown restrictions are eased.

“We urge the transport secretary Grant Shapps to put the TfL support package at the top of his in-tray as it requires immediate action.

“Meanwhile, Unite will be monitoring how the furlough scheme operates in practice and will be raising any issues that arise immediately with management.

“Unite will continue to make strong representations to the mayor’s office that those workers employed by private bus companies on the frontline and who have suffered the greatest death toll due to the virus, should also have their wages topped up, if furloughed.

“These are among the most vulnerable groups and it would not constitute a large number as most drivers continue to work.”