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Industry welcomes RMT breakthrough

Published:  09 November, 2023

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), has agreed a deal in principle with train operators to resolve the ongoing rail dispute, quelling fears of a repeat of last year’s Christmas strikes which were so damaging to the hospitality industry.

Rail unions have staged various strikes since June last year, including a month of industrial action in December 2022, across 14 different train operators which adversely affected the vital festive trading period.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the RMT and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the body representing train operators, said: “If accepted, this MOU (memorandum of understanding) will terminate the national dispute mandate, creating a pause and respite from industrial action over the Christmas period and into spring next year, while allowing for these important negotiations on proposed reforms to take place at local train operating company level through the established collective bargaining structures.

“These discussions would be aimed at addressing the companies’ proposals on the changing needs and expectations of passengers as well as unlocking further increases for staff, in order to help to secure a sustainable, long-term future for the railway and all those who work on it.”

The breakthrough in negotiations has been welcomed by key figures in the industry, including UKHospitality.

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO added: “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.

“The uncertainty and looming threat of rail strikes at Christmas was already knocking consumer confidence, with 4 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.”

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that four out of ten consumers plan to spend less on socialising this Christmas with household budgets squeezed by high interest rates, according to a recent survey from RSM UK, a leading audit, tax and consulting firm.

A survey of 1,000 consumers showed that 41% plan to cut back on socialising this Christmas which would be a significant blow to the hospitality sector, despite the positive news regarding rail disputes.

Bars and restaurants are also competing with ‘at home’ entertaining as the top areas that consumers plan to spend more on are Christmas dinners (25%), food and drink at home (24%) and presents (23%).

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM UK, said: “December is such a key trading month for hospitality but economic headwinds are dampening festive plans. Cuts to corporate-funded Christmas parties combined with consumers switching focus to a wholesome ‘at home’ Christmas could see spending in pubs and restaurants hit hard this year.

“Transport strikes cost bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels in the UK an estimated £1.5bn in December alone last year and proved to be the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for many businesses still reeling after Covid. A festive trading period free of travel disruptions is critical if businesses are to survive through the quieter trading months of 2024.”