Xmas rail strikes cast 'dark shadow' despite RMT deal

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Beyond inconvenience: Xmas rails strikes pose threat to hospitality firms despite RMT pay deal (Credit:Getty/Sally Anscombe)
Beyond inconvenience: Xmas rails strikes pose threat to hospitality firms despite RMT pay deal (Credit:Getty/Sally Anscombe)

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Industrial action will cause a “dark shadow” over festive trade despite rail unions pay deal to end dispute ahead of next year’s Spring strikes.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has today (Thursday 30 November) voted to accept a pay deal from 14 train companies, ending their involvement in the long-running series of strikes​ over issues regarding pay and working conditions.

Union members agreed to a backdated pay rise of 5% for 2022-23 as well as job security guarantees, meaning RMT will no longer be involved in industrial action until at least the Spring 2024.

However, members of The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), which represents train drivers, will still participate in strikes throughout December, casting a “dark shadow” over festive trade, according to the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA).

It said: “This week marks the ominous start of industrial action, casting a dark shadow over the hospitality and night-time economy Christmas period ​in the coming weeks. 

Hugely challenging 

“The fallout from the fruitless Autumn Statement has already sent shockwaves through the economy.

“The cumulative toll on night-time economy businesses is reaching unprecedented levels, with the stark reality that many will not survive this hugely challenging trading period.”

Moreover, industries bodies have previously estimated ongoing industrial rail action had already exceeded £4bn.

“The reckless actions of the unions are poised to scar businesses during a time when they typically experience increased revenue and heightened economic vitality”, the association continued.

ASLEF members will take part in a "rolling programme" of walkouts between​ 2 and 8 December, with different train companies affected on each day with an overtime ban from 1 to 9 December also expected to cause disruption.

Existential threat 

Thameslink and Great Northern services are expected to be affected on Sunday 3 December while Southern and Gatwick Express trains will face disruptions the following Wednesday (6 December).

The NTIA ​added: “The consequences of this industrial action extend beyond mere inconvenience; they pose an existential threat to countless businesses that form the backbone of our economy.

“It is imperative unions and relevant authorities recognise the severity of their actions and work swiftly to find a resolution that doesn't compromise the livelihoods of hardworking individuals and the very fabric of our night-time economy.

“The unions must reconsider their stance and engage in constructive dialogue to salvage what remains of the Christmas period for night-time economy businesses and the millions of people who rely on these services.”

Echoing the NTIA, UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls said while hospitality businesses will be "breathing a sigh of relief" over the deal, the sector was not "out of the woods yet".

She continued: “I would urge ASLEF to follow the lead of the RMT and commit to holding no further strikes in December and the New Year. Any further strikes would decimate the essential Christmas trading period for businesses, prevent millions from working and interrupt families’ festive plans.

“It’s critical that all parties still involved in pay disputes continue to negotiate and reach a resolution as soon as possible to avoid further, damaging strikes.”

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