Further strikes over the Christmas period announced yesterday by rail union RMT are set to disrupt the “third Christmas in a row” for hospitality businesses during the crucial festive period.
RMT union announced additional strike dates after rejecting a pay offer from Network Rail just before the industry’s deadline.
The union said it would put the offer to members in an electronic referendum this week but recommend that they reject it. It affirmed that two 48-hour strikes that will stop much of the railway next week would go ahead either way.
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “We feel that we’ve been compelled to take this action due to the intransigence of the government, we’ve been faced with an extremely detrimental offer and our members simply aren’t in a position to accept the changes the companies have put on the table.”
Rail workers will now also go on strike from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 7am on 27 December, curtailing some of the last passenger trains before Christmas and potentially disrupting a wide programme of engineering works on the railway.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “These further rail strikes will be hugely damaging for hospitality businesses, their workers and their customers as it seems almost guaranteed that we will be facing a heavily disrupted Christmas for the third year in a row.
“Our estimate of the cost of these strikes already stood at £1.5 billion in lost sales and it’s incredibly frustrating that a solution has yet to be reached to avoid this disruption during the golden month of trade for our sector.
“We’re continuing to urge all parties involved in the negotiations to reach a solution imminently to avoid these harmful strikes.”
Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said: ‘No one can deny the precarious financial hole in which the railway finds itself.
‘Striking makes that hole bigger and the task of finding a resolution ever more difficult.
‘Only through reform, that will not result in anyone losing their job, can savings be made that can then be converted into an improved offer. And while progress has been made over these last two weeks, we still have yet to find that breakthrough.
‘We will not give up and hope that the RMT will return to the table with a more realistic appreciation of the situation.’