Khan’s London transport staff paid £10m for union work
SADIQ KHAN, the mayor of London, has been accused of being “in the pockets of the unions” after it emerged Transport for London is paying £10 million for staff to work for transport unions.
The annual cost, which emerged after strike days caused chaos in recent months, has doubled since 2015-16, when Mr Khan succeeded Boris Johnson. In that year, 699 TFL workers took paid time off for union duties, at a cost of £4.4million. Two years later, this figure had more than doubled to £10.8million, paid to 731 staff, 37 of whom worked for unions full-time.
This increase coincided with a budget deficit of nearly £1billion.
Mr Khan is the chairman of TFL and of its board. He is responsible for setting out its strategy and holding Mike Brown, the commissioner, to account.
The transport network in London has been hit by several strikes this year.
In April, there was chaos on the District Line during an Aslef strike over the sacking of a Tube driver for running three red lights.
Aslef, which benefits from this TFL staffing budget, also went on strike in October in support of a driver who was dismissed after opening the doors of a Tube train while it was moving.
TFL staff are also paid to work for RMT, which held strikes in support of a driver who failed alcohol breath tests twice while at work. TFL itself branded some of the strikes “indefensible”.
Keith Prince, a Conservative member of the Greater London Authority who sits on the transport committee, told The Daily Telegraph yesterday: “Londoners want better Tubes, not more union reps.
“These statistics would be unacceptable if TFL had balanced books, but the transport budget is nearly £1billion in the red.
“At a time when finances are in dire straits, it is shocking that taxpayers’ money is being wasted in this way. It now clearer than ever that Sadiq Khan is in the pockets of the unions.” In August,
the Government published figures revealing there are more than 16,000 full-time union officials on the public payroll.
The issue rose to prominence in 2011 when Jane Pilgrim, an NHS employee who worked full-time for health union Unison, criticised the Government’s health policies.
The official term for letting public sector staff do union business during the working day is called “facility time”.
The transport network, which runs the London Underground, buses, light railway and Overground trains through the capital, is partly funded by the taxpayer.
In 2017-18, it got £2.6 billion of public money from local and central government sources.
David Leam, director of infrastructure at business group London First, said strikes cause “misery for commuters and tourists”. He added: “The drip drip nature of strike action in the capital over the last few years has caused real turmoil for commuters and companies alike, and undoubtedly damages London’s global reputation for being open for business.”
A spokesman for Mr Khan said: “The mayor makes no apologies for ensuring hard-working staff across London’s transport network are properly represented by trade unions.
“Since Sadiq has become mayor, there has been a 65 per cent reduction in days lost to strike action.
“This is because we have listened to the concerns of workers and engaged in constructive dialogue with the trade unions.”
A TFL spokesman said: “We allow representatives paid time off to carry out union duties. Meeting these costs represents 0.5 per cent of our total wage bill.
“The reorganisation of TFL over the past two years, that has helped reduce annual costs by around £500million, has required appropriate union representation for our staff affected by the changes.”