Christ­mas strikes to hit rail and air

Daily Express - - News - By Cyril Dixon

MIL­LIONS of trav­ellers face Christ­mas chaos on trains and planes af­ter both rail and air unions yesterday an­nounced strike ac­tion for De­cem­ber 22.

Man­agers of South West­ern Rail­way and Vir­gin At­lantic con­demned the walk­outs at the height of the hol­i­day get­away.

Mil­i­tant rail union RMT promised misery for shop­pers when they re­vealed plans for a one-day stop­page in a dis­pute over guards’ safety.

Pi­lots’ union the PPU threat­ened the flight plans of transat­lantic trav­ellers by vot­ing for a three-day stop­page over the com­pany’s fail­ure to recog­nise it.

Both sets of ac­tion come on the fi­nal Satur­day be­fore Christ­mas, when all ser­vices are ex­pected to be busy with peo­ple go­ing away or re­turn­ing home for the break.

SWR con­demned the stop­pages by mil­i­tant Mick Cash’s union over the is­sue of guards’ de­ploy­ment on trains.

Crime

A spokesman ac­cused the union of “scare-mon­ger­ing” by try­ing to jus­tify the strike with ref­er­ences to crime. He said: “The num­ber of crimes on the SWR net­work has re­duced by nearly six per cent since April. This ac­tion is to­tally un­nec­es­sary. We have guar­an­teed to roster a guard on ev­ery train.

“By tar­get­ing the last Satur­day be­fore Christ­mas when peo­ple are try­ing to travel to be with fam­ily and friends, the RMT is en­sur­ing the max­i­mum misery is in­flicted at what should be a time of re­lax­ation and en­joy­ment.”

The SWR ac­tion comes on top of RMT walk­outs at Ar­riva Rail North, where mem­bers are strik­ing for 24 hours ev­ery Satur­day as part of the same dis­pute.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Brown said: “By the end of De­cem­ber, we will have had 19 con­sec­u­tive Satur­days of RMT strike ac­tion. This tar­geted ac­tion dis­rupts our cus­tomers’ lives, but, as we en­ter a vi­tal pe­riod for busi­nesses, it also dam­ages the eco­nomic well­be­ing of the north of Eng­land.”

Mr Cash claimed SWR, which runs ser­vices out of Lon­don across the South-east and to the West Coun­try, could eas­ily re­solve their dif­fer­ences over the use of driver-only ser­vices.

He said: “South West­ern Rail­way con­tin­ues to refuse to re­solve this dis­pute, which is about safety, se­cu­rity and ac­cess. Re­cent fig­ures have shown a shock­ing a surge in vi­o­lence on our rail­ways. It is frankly ap­palling that South West­ern Rail­way are look­ing for a green light to throw the guard off their trains as and when they see fit in the name of profit.”

Vir­gin At­lantic claimed its ser­vices are un­likely to be badly af­fected be­cause only a third of its pi­lots be­long to PPU. Oth­ers be­long to BALPA. PPU spokesman Steve Johnson said its mem­bers voted seven to one for ac­tion be­tween De­cem­ber 22 and 25, af­ter be­ing “shut out” of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mean­while, staff at the Tower of Lon­don and his­toric royal palaces in­clud­ing Hamp­ton Court and Kens­ing­ton are to stage a pre-Christ­mas strike in a row over the switch­ing away from fi­nal salary pen­sions.

Mem­bers of the Pub­lic and Com­mer­cial Ser­vices union em­ployed by His­toric Royal Palaces will walk out on De­cem­ber 21.

The work­ers voted nine to one in favour of strikes on a 72 per cent turnout.

His­toric Royal Palaces said its main tourist attractions would re­main open.

Pic­tures: EYEVINE

Train and plane trav­ellers are fac­ing Christ­mas misery af­ter unions yesterday an­nounced plans for strike ac­tion

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