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Christmas parties cancelled because of rail strikes

Up to 40 per cent of Christmas parties and bookings are set to be cancelled as a result of new rail strikes, a hospitality trade body has predicted.

The warning from UKHospitality comes as the UK braces for a wave of rail strikes this month at what is one of the busiest times of year for travel amid festive celebrations.

Christmas cancellations would deepen a third year of disruption for the struggling hospitality industry. Pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants account for 7 per cent of the UK’s jobs.

The RMT union announced on Monday that its members would walk out from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27 in an escalation of a dispute over pay. They will also press ahead with two 48-hour strikes next week. UKHospitality, which represents 740 companies and 100,000 venues, has previously estimated that the rail strikes throughout December will cost businesses about £1.5 billion in lost sales and other impacts.

Yesterday Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “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.”

Hospitality is the third largest private sector employer in the UK, double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined.

Last Sunday, Network Rail made a new pay offer to the RMT, including a 5 per cent base pay rise backdated to January 1 and another 4 per cent next year.

It also promised that there would be no compulsory redundancies before January 31, 2025. The offer includes a £250 lump sum for those earning £24,000 or less and a 75 per cent travel discount for workers and their immediate family. The RMT said it would put the offer to its members but would strongly advise them to reject it. The ballot closes at noon on December 12.

Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, said: “At the minute we haven’t got anything that’s acceptable to us, and we feel that we’ve been compelled to take this action because of the intransigence of the government delivered to us by the employers, on the government’s behalf, and that we’ve got no choice.”

Mark Harper, the transport secretary, said: “The government has played its part by facilitating a fair and decent offer but . . . the RMT has failed to play its part and our rail network faces more harmful disruption.”

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