Khan’s Lon­don trans­port staff paid £10m for union work

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By He­len Chan­dler-wilde

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.”

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