Christmas strikes to hit rail and air
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.
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.
Train and plane travellers are facing Christmas misery after unions yesterday announced plans for strike action