By Biodun Busari
The United Kingdom’s rail passengers under the aegis of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) will embark on strike before and after Christmas.
According to RMT, in its announcement on Tuesday, more than 40,000 union members are expected to take part in the industrial action.
The industrial action will be held across four 48-hour periods on the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th of December and the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th of January.
BBC reports that services have been disrupted in recent months as the disagreement over pay, working conditions and job security has continued.
But the RMT said the latest strike action would register “a clear message” that workers demand a better arrangement.
The union announced there would also be an overtime ban from 18 December until 2 January, meaning the union will be taking industrial action for four weeks in total.
In a statement, the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our message to the public is, we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the government and railway employers during this latest phase of action.”
Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said: “No one can deny the precarious financial hole in which the railway finds itself.
“Striking makes that hole bigger and the task of finding a resolution ever more difficult.”
The RMT union has already held eight days of strikes since June, which have caused widespread disruption. But the union has said salaries should increase to reflect the rising cost of living.
Claire Smith, a hotelier from Blackpool, said the strikes would be “very disruptive” to the hotel trade in the Lancashire seaside resort.
“So we’re put in a very difficult position by this,” Ms Smith added. “December is a very busy period for us. It’s our last bite of the apple, and then we hibernate probably until Easter.”
“Of course, we have huge sympathy for the strikers, and just wish they would do more negotiating round the table,” she added.
However, the prime minister’s spokesman criticised unions involved in the strikes, saying: “They are damaging the economy, stopping hard-working people from getting to work, to reaching hospital appointments, to going to school.
“I think everyone is well aware of the serious financial challenges the rail industry faces following the pandemic and the need for reform.”