Eurostar train strikes: are December walkouts cancelled, will Christmas services be affected by RMT action?

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RMT calls off first two days of pre-Christmas industrial action but warns later strikes could still proceed

Planned strikes on Eurostar this weekend have been called off by the RMT union.

Security staff on the European rail link were due to strike on Friday 16 and Sunday 18 December but the action has been called off while union members vote on a renewed pay offer from their employer.

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More than 100 staff employed by contractor Mitie were due to walk out in action timed to coincide with wider strikes on the national rail network but the RMT has halted the Eurostar action amid ongoing talks. While this weekend’s strikes have been cancelled, the union warned that other planned action for later in the month could still go ahead and warned of severe disruption on routes into Europe in the pre-Christmas period.

An RMT spokesperson said: “The union suspended scheduled strikes this week to allow Mitie security members to take part in a referendum on the latest company offer which will be concluded on December 19. Strikes for December 22 and 23 next week remain on at the present time.”

How will services be affected?

Eurostar said the wider RMT strikes will affect services up to 17 December but did not given any indication of what impact it expects the security staff strikes to have. The RMT claims the strike action by staff at the London St Pancras terminal will “severely affect” passengers’ travel plans over the pre-Christmas period on the service, which operates direct trains between London and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

However, Mitie, which employs the staff, said it had “robust” contingency plans in place should next week’s strikes go ahead which should mean its operations continue as normal.

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Why did workers vote to strike?

The RMT says it expects the four days of pre-Christmas strikes to have a significant impact on Eurostar services from London St Pancras  (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)The RMT says it expects the four days of pre-Christmas strikes to have a significant impact on Eurostar services from London St Pancras  (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The RMT says it expects the four days of pre-Christmas strikes to have a significant impact on Eurostar services from London St Pancras (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The strikes were initially called after the staff voted 4-1 in favour of action after rejecting a pay offer. The union says that some of the workers earn as little as £10.66 per hour and rejected the previous pay deal because it offered a below inflation increase for “essential” staff. It claimed that Mitie made £50 million profit between March and September this year and therefore could afford to offer its staff “a decent wage”.

Details of the new offer have not be revealed but workers have until 19 December to decide whether or not to accept it.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "Eurostar security staff are essential to the running of Eurostar, and it is disgraceful they are not being paid a decent wage. They work long unsocial hours and a multimillion-pound company like Mitie can easily afford to pay them decently for the essential work they do."

A Mitie spokesperson said: “As pay negotiations are progressing, we’re pleased that RMT has made the decision to call off this week’s industrial action in recognition of the significant pay increase that has already been offered. This is in addition to our £10 million winter support package, designed to help the lowest paid colleagues across Mitie with the rising cost of living.

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“As always, our priority is to ensure that exceptional services are delivered so that passengers are able to continue their journeys with minimal disruption. Should strike action go ahead next week, we have robust contingency measures in place and so we anticipate our services to be delivered as normal.”

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