Strikes on Eurostar have been partially called off in a rare sign of respite for travelers trying to navigate weeks of U.K. rail disruption.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said December 14 that strikes on the service, scheduled for December 15 and 17, were suspended to allow security staff a chance to vote on the latest offer from their employer, Mitie Group Plc.
Strikes on December 22 and 23 “remain on at the present time,” the RMT added. The Eurostar train line links London to continental Europe.
The RMT and another labor group, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, have begun a series of strikes across the U.K. rail network, following a lengthy dispute over pay and proposed reforms to the system.
The strikes will officially pause on December 15, yet workers traveling into the office still face disruption — and on some journeys, the mornings following a walkout can be more disruptive than the strike days themselves. Commuters from Brighton, on England’s south coast, should be able to get to London Victoria by 8.13 a.m. on December 16, according to current scheduling, despite the strike. On December 15, the earliest they will be able to make it in is 8.41 a.m.
Travelers from Feltham, on the outskirts of southwest London, will see an even bigger discrepancy, with a train getting to Waterloo by 8.11 a.m. on December 16, but no services arriving into the city before 9 a.m. on December 15.
Unions have accused the U.K. government of thwarting higher pay offers from train companies, while ministers argue that steep raises could trigger second round effects on price hikes and end up worsening the cost-of-living crisis. Inflation eased to 10.7% in November, according to data published December 14. Strikes have spread across a number of sectors and include nurses, ambulance drivers, postal workers and civil servants.
‘Badge of Shame’
At Rishi Sunak’s weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on December 14, opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer told the premier that the nurses’ strike, which begins December 15, is a “badge of shame” for the government.
“Instead of showing leadership, the Prime Minister is playing games with people’s health,” Starmer said. “All he needs to do is simply meet the nurses.”
Sunak said the government has “consistently spoken to all unions involved in pay disputes,” adding that the government had responded to nurses’ requests for more training and money for nursing students, while also awarding them a pay rise last year when the pay of other public sector workers was frozen.
Health service bosses have criticized the nurses’ union for leaving some patients vulnerable to the industrial action. Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said senior nurses had been “let down by” the Royal College of Nursing and asked it to extend exemptions to the strike.
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