Christmas rail strikes 'devastating'

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Catastrophic impact: RMT announces further strike action to take place over festive period (Credit: Getty/coldsnowstorm)
Catastrophic impact: RMT announces further strike action to take place over festive period (Credit: Getty/coldsnowstorm)

Related tags ukhospitality Bbpa NTIA Health and safety

Rail strikes over the festive period will be “catastrophic” for hospitality businesses more “reliant” than ever on Christmas trade to get through the first quarter of 2023, trade bodies from across the sector have said.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) yesterday (Tuesday 22 November) announced a series of 48-hour strikes ​would take place in December and January amid ongoing negotiations regarding pay disputes and working conditions for rail workers.

Additionally, RMT said it would be implementing an overtime ban from Sunday 18 December to Monday 2 January, meaning strike action will be taking place for four weeks in total.  

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Continued rail strikes ​have had a huge impact on our hospitality sector; preventing staff from making it into work and disrupting consumers’ plans meaning a huge drop in sales for venues across the sector. 

“I’d encourage all parties to come together to find a resolution that can avoid further strikes and the disruption they cause both businesses and the public.”

Catastrophic impact 

More than 40,000 union members and 14 train operating companies are set to participate in the industrial action, scheduled to take place on Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December as well as Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4, Friday 6 and Saturday 7 January.

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “This is devastating news for pubs.

“The week of the strikes ​is usually the busiest in the year for our industry, but instead of supporting pubs, customers will be cancelling bookings and staying home, whilst staffing shortages will be exacerbated by a lack of transport options for employees.

“Our industry desperately needs this Christmas boost, we urgently need a resolution to reinstate train services and ensure customers and staff can travel easily and confidently, or the impact on trade will be catastrophic.”

Suffering heavily 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch claimed industry bosses had “failed” to make new proposals to settle the ongoing disputes and were “unwilling or unable” to progress matters appropriately, showing a need for strike action to be reinstated.

This comes as rail strikes earlier this year were estimated by UKHospitality to have cost the sector some £540m​.

Night-Time Industries Association CEO Michael Kill said: “Further strike action during the festive period will be catastrophic and inevitably have a knock-on effect on service either side of the key holiday period.

“These sporadic weekly or daily planned strikes are eating into consumer confidence, leaving many concerned about travelling. This year more than any other, we are heavily reliant on this period to get through Q1 2023.

“Our industry is already suffering heavily from rising costs as inflation reaches a 40-year high and consumer disposable income is at an all-time low, coupled with rail strike action feel we are revisiting Christmas 2021.”

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