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Christmas rail strikes to cost hospitality £800 million

For the second year in a row, rail strikes will hit hospitality during the critical festive trading period, with UKHospitality predicting losses of £800 million for the on-trade.

Christmas rail strikes to cost hospitality £800 million

Aslef, the UK’s train drivers’ union, has announced a new set of 24-hour strikes and an overtime ban for early December.

Drivers at each company will strike for 24 hours on dates between Saturday 2 and Friday 8 December, and will refuse to work overtime between Friday 1 and Saturday 9 December, causing more disruption for operators that rely on rest-day working.

Industrial action was also announced ahead of the festive period in 2022, causing a predicted £1.5 billion in losses for the UK hospitality sector.

Trade body UKHospitality estimated in January 2023 that rail strikes could have cost the sector £2.5 billion since summer 2022. That prediction has now risen to £3.5 billion in losses over the past year and a half.

News of fresh strikes comes after the RMT union and employers signalled a possible breakthrough, with an agreement on pay to be ratified in a members’ vote.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “These strikes will hit hospitality businesses at the start of the critical festive period and will devastate trading during one of the busiest weeks of the year, costing the sector up to £800 million.

“The ongoing rail dispute has already cost the sector £3.5 billion over the past year and a half and continues to disrupt businesses, prevent staff from working and interrupt families’ Christmas plans.

Nicholls urged “all parties to get back round the table to resume negotiations and work urgently to reach a solution that avoids these devastating strikes, including following the lead of the RMT who have reached an agreement to avoid strikes over Christmas”.

She warned that due to the drop in revenues during the “fallow months of January to March”, it is “essential” that strikes during December, one of the busiest times of the year, are avoided.

She added: “The significant impact to trading that these strikes will cause reinforce the critical need for the Chancellor to extend business rates support at the Autumn Statement next week, to help businesses navigate and offset the damage of ongoing rail strikes.”

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