A pub owner faces criticism from union leaders for turning down a railway workers’ Christmas party because the strikes have hit his business.
Andy Shaw, the owner of the Portwall Tavern in Bristol, said his profits and staff have suffered from the ongoing battle over wages and benefits.
So in retaliation for the strikers vying for a pay rise amid the cost-of-living crisis, Shaw turned down a local railroad workers’ Christmas party.
The Bristol Rail Workers’ Social and Welfare Fund applied in August to reserve the pub at Bristol Temple Meads station for the festive celebration.
The committee, which supports Bristol’s railway workers in various unions, had booked the pub for the past five years.
By email, Shaw asked the committee if their members had been involved in strikes against Great Western Railway train operator serving Bristol.
When the committee confirmed this was the case, Shaw told BristolLive: “I wrote back a very polite email, saying that while I wished them well with their action and hoped it would be resolved quickly, I could not accept booking.
“It would be hypocritical of me to do that as I have lost a lot of money because of this strike.
“It affects me personally, it affects my staff, and also my ability to get staff in because of the train strikes, and it affects the trade we get because we’re close to the station.”
Shaw said he has “no opinion” on the strikes and added that the commission did not respond to his rejection.
The railroad workers’ social fund committee eventually booked another room to host their Christmas party.
The Bristol Trades Union Council, which brings together trade unions linked to the Trades Union Congress, passed a motion last month asking members to boycott Shaw’s pub.
His pub, according to the motion, is an ‘anti-workers establishment’.
The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) filed the motion stating that “union members here should avoid drinking both personally and professionally.”
“ASLEF calls on Bristol Trades Council to encourage union members to seek out independent, union-friendly pubs in Bristol, of which there are a significant number,” read the motion from the drivers’ union.
“Given the current cost of living crisis, with many pubs threatening to close, it is more important now than in a long time that we make an effort to support those establishments that share the aims and ideals of the trade union movement.”
Shaw accused union officials of “bullying” him.
“They have the right to strike and I support that, but I have the right whether or not to take any bookings I want,” he said.
There are many reasons rail unions have called for industrial action, but pay is one of the biggest.
With inflation at 11.1%, the highest point in 40 years, prices for everything from fuel to food have risen to stratospheric heights, while wages have barely changed.
This financial pain is especially felt in the public sector, with the largest gap ever between it and the private sector.
Many union officials have expressed fears that the Conservative government’s tighter belt on public services has left many, such as health care and public transport, underfunded.
Upcoming strikes organized by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) were launched against government officials and railway companies over wages, layoffs and changes in terms and conditions.
Railway company bosses have said they are under pressure to keep costs down after the Covid-19 pandemic has eroded their profit margins.
But railroad workers are not alone.
Actions by paramedics, nurses, factory workers, civil servants, border guards, bus drivers, postmen, Scottish teachers and more are scheduled for the coming weeks.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has long said he will tighten Britain’s already rigid union laws and did not rule out banning emergency services from doing so.
Labour’s shadow secretary Steve Reed told Sky News earlier today: “It just shouldn’t be the case that in a country like this people can’t afford to make ends meet and what that has resulted in a wave of union action from people who are angry. and terrified of the future.’
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