Festive train strikes could spark commuter chaos
TRAIN strikes are set to cause chaos across the UK this December. Strike action is taking place across December and January, including the Christmas period.
Christmas time is one of the busiest times of the year on the trains, but the cost-of-living crisis and allegations of poor working conditions has sparked unrest among railway workers which could leave millions struggling to get home for the holidays.
One of the groups most affected by the proposed strikes are students, most of whom rely on public transport to get home at the end of term.
Cara Deacon, 20, a history student at Portsmouth Uni who is travelling home to London for Christmas, said: “I support the workers in their strike, but I think it has lost its affect by the frequency of their strike action.
“I disagree with their timing as it means a lot of people are now stressed about travelling home for Christmas and getting to their loved ones at an already stressful time of year. It also means people will have to resort to more expensive modes of transport.”
She added: “I fully appreciate those on strike are affected by the cost-of-living crisis too, but there is a greater good that should be considered at Christmas time.”
The strike has been organised by National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) due to ongoing disputes over pay. It will involve over 40,000 rail workers across the UK. RMT have also organised additional strike days throughout December and January.
It comes after RMT members recently rejected a 4% pay rise. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.”
Mr Lynch spoke with reporters in London recently, saying: “I’m not the Grinch, I’m a trade union official and I’m determined to get a deal.”
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, told the BBC that the RMT was “playing fast and loose with people’s Christmas plans and the new strike dates announced deliberately target vital engineering work designed to improve the railway.”
The decision to reject the pay deal has come under fire from members of the government as well. Nick Gibb, UK Minister of State for the Department of Education, accused RMT of “holding the country to ransom.”
Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, said yesterday (December 6): “I just think it’s terribly disappointing. They could not have chosen worse days. You can imagine why they have done it.”
The strikes have gathered support from Labour. Deputy leader Angela Rayner told BBC Breakfast: “These people who are going on strike are going to lose pay, they will lose their pay at a time when they need it the most, they are not doing it at a drop of a hat.”
She added: “This is a militant Government that is not dealing with the issues and not resolving this strike action, and it’s frustrating.”
The Scottish Government’s Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth and RMT have been contacted for comment.
Additional reporting: Patryk Witkowski