London businesses lament dismal start to 2023 after another rail strike set for January
Hospitality leaders have reiterated calls for rail firms and unions to hash out an eleventh-hour resolution to swerve January strikes, after train drivers announced another walk-out.
Train drivers at 15 companies in the union Aslef have agreed to strike on 5 January, as part of a long-standing pay dispute.
The walkout will take place on the same week as the RMT strikes, when union members working at 14 train operators will walk out on 3, 4, 6, 7 January.
Footfall in the West End was down by 25 per cent between Monday to Wednesday last week compared with the week prior, when the RMT were carrying out a 48-hour strike.
Despite it being the week many shoppers head out to buy Christmas gifts, footfall in the area was down by almost a third on 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
The latest proposed strikes will “further erode the optimism that retail and hospitality businesses will have for the new year,” Dee Corsi, CEO of the New West End Company, told CityA.M.
The head of the group – which represents 600 businesses in the capital’s shopping and theatre heartland – called for all parties to come to an agreement “so that the high street can continue its recovery and look forward to a year of growth in 2023.”
Pub and restaurant bosses have lamented the impact of strike action on their Christmas bookings, claiming the industry is set to lose between £1.5bn and £2bn in sales this month.
Industry group UKHospitality has spoken to government ministers and RMT boss Mick Lynch to communicate how hard strikes have been hitting city venues.
Venues have seen cancellation rates of up to 35 to 40 per cent, which is on a par with the disruption caused by Omicron Covid-19 measures last Christmas, according to UKHospitality.
“Rail strikes are having massive cumulative impacts on hospitality businesses, their workers and their customers,” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said.
She added: “It’s essential that all parties involved in the negotiations reach a solution imminently to avoid further strikes.”
The founder of the Nightcap cocktail company, Sarah Willingham, said she had been “disgusted” by the timing of the walk-outs.
Willingham, who oversees the Barrio, Adventure Bar Group and Cocktail Club brands, said “once again we (retail, hospitality and small businesses) are all in the crossfire.”
She called on the government to intervene and said the walk-outs were “becoming a major incident.”
The Dragons’ Den star said that “many, many businesses would suffer in January, with some forced to close and “thousands” of jobs on the line.