Breakthrough in rail strike negotiations could mean ‘Christmas comes early’ for hospitality

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Breakthrough in rail strike negotiations could mean ‘Christmas comes early’ for hospitality

Related tags Strike action Industrial action Network rail Trade union ukhospitality

A breakthrough in the long-running rail dispute between the RMT union and train operators could ‘save the incredibly valuable festive period’ for the hospitality sector, UKHospitality has said.

The RMT has confirmed its members are to vote on a pay deal that could halt its current wave of industrial action, which has been going on for nearly 18 months.

In a statement, the union said it had come to a ‘mutually agreed way forward’ with the Rail Delivery Group, the body representing train operators, which would see staff get a pay rise backdated to 2022, alongside job security guarantees.

If the deal is accepted, the RMT’s strike mandate will end, creating a pause and respite from industrial action over the Christmas period and into spring next year.

“Christmas will have come early for hospitality businesses if this breakthrough in negotiations puts an end to ongoing rail strikes and saves the incredibly valuable festive period for the sector,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

“The uncertainty and looming threat of rail strikes at Christmas was already knocking consumer confidence, with four in 10 businesses finding their bookings behind where they were last year.

“A clear resolution would give the public the confidence they need to firm up their plans for the festive period and would, crucially, avoid hospitality businesses losing millions.”

The ongoing industrial action on the railways, which started in June last year, has had a major impact on the hospitality sector, with UKHospitality previously estimating that the strikes have so far cost the sector in the region £3.5bn.

It has led to some businesses, including steakhouse group Hawksmoor, launching meal deals on strike days to encourage diners out​.

This breakthrough in negotiations comes just a few days after the Government announced it would introduce new minimum service level regulations​, which would require train operators to run 40% of their normal timetable on strike days.

Even if the RMT dispute is resolved, a separate dispute with train drivers in the Aslef union that remains ongoing means walkouts across the rail network over Christmas could still be possible.

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