Fury as rail union bosses enjoy Christmas 'bash' with Labour MPs

Absolutely crackers: Fury as rail union bosses enjoy Christmas ‘bash’ with Labour MPs while wrecking festive party plans for millions by staging week of walkouts set to cost pubs ‘£800m’

  • A week of commuter chaos is expected after train drivers started overtime ban 

Rail union bosses have sparked fury after enjoying a Christmas bash with Labour MPs ahead of train drivers striking this week.

Aslef chief Mick Whelan and more than 100 union members attended the holiday party with the lawmakers at the four-star Earl of Doncaster Hotel on Friday.

MP Kate Osborne, who shared video footage on the bash on social media, hailed the party as ‘wonderful’ and applauded her Aslef ‘comrades’, saying she stood in ‘solidarity to those taking strike action’.

It comes as members of the train drivers’ union are taking strike action this week in a long-running dispute over pay. Parts of the country had no trains over the weekend and there will be more disruption for the rest of the week.

Britain’s beleaguered pubs, bars and restaurants are also set to be dealt an £800million hammer blow this festive season as rail unions launch a string of walkouts that will impact an industry that was already crippled by draconian and damaging lockdown restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

Rail union bosses enjoyed a Christmas bash with Labour MPs on Friday, ahead of train drivers striking this week

MP Kate Osborne, who shared video footage on the bash on social media, hailed the party as ‘wonderful’ and applauded her Aslef ‘comrades’, saying she stood in ‘solidarity to those taking strike action’. She is pictured at Friday’s bash

Ms Osborne posted a video from the holiday party to TikTok and X, formerly Twitter. The clip showed the glitzy event which saw her receive a gift from Mr Whelan and MPs pulling crackers.

Great to be with Aslef comrades in a ­womderfully (sic) venue and solidarity to all those taking strike action today,’ she tweeted.

‘Lovely to have the 3 wise Men @grahamemorris @IanLaveryMP & @IanMearnsMP at table – even if Lavery cheated with the Christmas cracker!’

Labour receives funding from Aslef as its affiliate so it is not surprising that union bosses and some members were invited to the bash. 

But the party is likely to infuriate many commuters and business owners who are feeling the direct impacts of Aslef’s forthcoming walkouts.

A week of commuter chaos is expected after Aslef members voted to stage a further six months of walk outs in a long-running dispute over pay. Overtime will also be banned until Saturday which will lead to further disruption and cancellations.

Train drivers across England started a week-long ban on overtime on Friday which is expected to disrupt services. 

However, commuters needing to travel during the busy pre-Christmas weekends have already expressed their frustrations on social media after being stranded with no rail replacement service.

One person unable to get a bus replacement service with Great Northern on Saturday wrote on X: ‘Please explain why as a service industry you think it is acceptable not to provide a service to passengers. I have an annual season ticket and you are letting me and all other passengers down.’

Train drivers across England started a week-long ban on overtime on Friday which is expected to disrupt services. Pictured: East Midlands Railway Luton Airport Express trains sit in a sidings near Kettering train station in Northamptonshire on Saturday

Pictured: Members of the Aslef union on a picket line near to Leeds train station in June 2023

MPs have called for more details from the Government over its controversial plans to ensure a minimum level of service during rail strikes.

New regulations will force unions to agree to make sure a certain number of trains run during industrial action.

The Transport Select Committee has been holding inquiries into how the new regulations will apply during rail strikes.

Members of the committee urged the Government not to overlook risks when it introduces the regulations and be ready to learn lessons where necessary. 

They have laid out three criteria by which the Department for Transport (DfT) should judge whether the introduction of minimum service levels (MSLs) has been successful: whether imposing them inadvertently leads to ‘novel’ forms of protest, if industrial disputes are prolonged, and whether they lead to better working relationships between rail unions, the industry and Government.

The committee said ministers issued a one-sentence response: ‘The Government welcomes these suggested criteria and will carefully monitor the impact of MSLs.’

Transport Committee chairman Iain Stewart said: ‘The Government has signalled its intention to implement MSLs as soon as possible. Given it has an unresolved dispute with the train drivers’ union Aslef, we could see these regulations in action very soon.

‘My committee felt that the Government’s plans could have included more detail, as throughout our inquiry voices from the sector were calling out for guidance from DfT on how to prepare for this new way of working.

‘We were disappointed by the Government’s half-hearted response to our recommendation on how it will judge the success or otherwise of MSLs.

‘There is a risk of MSLs worsening worker-employer relations and that, as a result, MSLs could end up making services less reliable.

‘We will watch with interest how the department intends to assess the success of MSLs as the regulations come into force.

‘I urge the Government to keep a close eye over how this develops and learn lessons where necessary. After all, major changes to timetabling on the rail network haven’t always gone seamlessly in the past.’

Scenes at Paddington Station in London as members of the drivers’ Aslef union stage a 24-hour strike on October 4

Full list of train strikes this week

  • Tuesday, December 5 – C2C and Greater Anglia
  • Wednesday, December 6 – Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, the SWR main line and depot, and on the Island Line
  • Thursday, December 7 – CrossCountry and Great Western Railway
  • Friday, December 8 – Northern and TransPennine Express

Full list of 

Meanwhile, as rail walkouts are planned through Friday, December 8, experts fear that the hospitality sector is set to be dealt another belting blow. 

One analysis by UKHospitality estimates that the walkouts could wipe £800million off the sector. It comes after a separate analysis predicted that rail strikes since last summer have cost Britain’s economy more than £5billion.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls last week warned that the ongoing dispute could cost the industry up to £800million over the winter holidays and has already cost the hospitality business more than £3billion.

Christmas time is particularly important for the UK hospitality sector because people tend to cut down on their spending between January to March.

The holiday season is a vital source of income for certain bars and restaurants to survive.

Ms Nicholls said: ‘These strikes will hit hospitality businesses at the start of the critical festive period and will devastate trading during one of the busiest weeks of the year, costing the sector up to £800million.

‘The ongoing rail dispute has already cost the sector £3.5billion over the past year and a half and continues to disrupt businesses, prevent staff from working and interrupt families’ Christmas plans.’

Industrial action last year caused a predicted £1.5billion in losses for the UK hospitality sector. 

A food court in Carnaby Street is empty during 2022 rail walk outs

Cafes and bars in Soho appeared empty during what is usually a busy trading period for the hospitality and retail industry last year

Earlier this year, hospitality brands Greene King, Fuller’s, Mitchells & Butlers and Wasabi have signed an open letter, alongside UKHospitality, to the Transport Secretary, RMT, ASLEF and Rail Delivery Group, urging them to ‘redouble efforts’ to resolve the ongoing dispute.

According to Keith Knowles, CEO of Beds & Bars, its sales were down 70 per cent on average on strike days.

Thorley Taverns, which runs almost 20 pubs in Kent, claimed that strikes had ‘decimated’ the number of visitors from London to the Kent coast. 

RMT boss Mick Lynch was labelled Mick ‘Grinch’ after the 2022 walkouts, which scuppered thousands of people’s Christmas travel plans.

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