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UK live sector expresses concern over upcoming train strikes

By | Published on Thursday 9 June 2022

Live Music

The live and night-time industries have expressed concern about the train strikes which are due to take place in the UK later this month. The RMT union has announced nationwide strikes on 21, 23 and 25 Jun in an ongoing dispute over pay freezes and possible job losses in the rail sector in the midst of significant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

The three strike days notably take place during the week of this year’s Glastonbury Festival, impacting on those who planned to travel to that event on public transport. But, of course, countless other shows and events will also be negatively impacted if the strike achieves its aim of pretty much shutting down the entire UK railway system.

Responding to the news of the planned strike action, Michael Kill from the Night Time Industries Association told reporters: “The announcement of UK-wide train strikes has sent a shockwave throughout the industry, over concerns for staff and public safety, and the potential impact on trade. Limited rail services across the UK will leave many stranded at night, compromising safety with very few alternative transport services available”.

“The transport infrastructure within the night-time economy is vitally important to our recovery post pandemic”, he added, “particularly as we move into peak summer season for festival and events, and a critical time for tourism, who rely heavily on public transport”.

Meanwhile, Jon Collins, CEO of live sector trade group LIVE, said: “While we recognise the legitimacy of this action, a large proportion of live music fans, artists and staff are completely reliant on the rail network to get them to events safely”.

“Like the rail sector”, he added “our industry remains incredibly fragile post pandemic and this action threatens several large gigs and festivals, many of which are back up and running for the first time in two years. We urge both government and the RMT to get back around the table and resolve the dispute before the proposed disruption further damages the rest of the UK economy”.

Justifying the strike action, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously”.

“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1% and rising. Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system”.

“Rail companies are making at least £500 million a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the COVID-19 pandemic”, he added. “This unfairness is fuelling our members’ anger and their determination to win a fair settlement”.

The strike action involves employees at thirteen different train companies that operate services across England, as well as workers at the state-owned Network Rail, which manages the tracks. Because Network Rail workers will be on strike, impacting on signalling, the action will likely also affect the services of train companies where employees are not directly striking, including in Scotland and Wales.

Speaking for the railway sector, Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines insisted that talks will continue with the RMT with the hope of finding a settlement that could stop the strikes from going ahead. He said: “There are two weeks until the first strike is planned. We will use this time to keep talking to our unions and, through compromise and common sense on both sides, we hope to find a solution and avoid the damage that strike action would cause all involved”.