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Rail Strikes Threaten Summer Events

Matt Crisp June 16, 2022

Coach bookings for Glastonbury Music Festival have soared after a national rail strike was announced to take place on 21 June, with further strikes planned for the 23 and 25 of June. The Guardian reports that Network Rail and 13 other train companies will see staff walkouts over disputes about pay and redundancies.

Overall, more than 50,000 rail workers, who are members of the RMT Union, will be on strike. At the same time, 10,000 London Underground staff will strike on 21 June, over a separate dispute about pensions and job cuts.

Besides the Glastonbury Festival, which takes place from the 22 to the 26 June, there are many events planned around the country for the midsummer weekend. The UK Athletics Championships are taking place in Manchester, and Elton John is playing Hyde Park in London.

The planned rail strikes are a bitter blow to event organisers and attendees alike, many of whom have put plans on hold for two years, after the pandemic disrupted many large summer gatherings and live events. While some will be lucky enough to arrange coach hire to Glastonbury and other events, others may be forced to abandon their plans.

Representatives from industry trade bodies for the night time and festival sector have expressed their concern and disappointment at the announcement. It is unwelcome news for an industry that has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions.

Jon Collins, chief executive of one such trade body, Live, told the Guardian: “While our members are understanding of the RMT’s concerns, there’s a frustration that this has come at a time when we’re trying to rebuild the live music industry after almost two years of closure.”

He added: “It’s not just the Glastonburys of this world. It’s the smaller festivals and gigs, where people have paid £8 or £15 for a ticket, where customers may think, ‘I’m going to have to not go.’ That means the event may go ahead but you may not make the profit you were hoping for, which could be business-critical in this year of all years.”

The strike has been described as the biggest show of industrial action in the UK since 1989. Although three days of strikes are planned for June, it is likely that the entire week of 21-26 June will be disrupted, because trains will not be in the places they are usually scheduled to be.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, while fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic. This unfairness is fuelling our members’ anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.

“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.”

Possible further rail strikes are planned for July 25, which could threaten to disrupt the Commonwealth Games. The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association is demanding that pay increases keep up with inflation, and that no more compulsory redundancies take place for the rest of the year.