‘We are losing business’ - Birmingham independent traders on the impact of the RMT train strikes

Some businesses in Birmingham have been feeling the effects of the RMT train strikes

Shop workers and independent businesses have expressed their frustration over the impact of the RMT strikes on business.

The largest rail strike for a generation caused severe disruption in Birmingham and across the country on Tuesday (21 June).

Usually packed stations such as Birmingham New Street and Moor Street were, as expected, almost deserted throughout the first day of industrial action, except for union picket lines.

Photo from Grand Central Kitchen Facebook

The RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) strike involves 40,000 signallers, maintenance and train staff working for Network Rail.

Workers are protesting over over pay, jobs and conditions, and rail companies across the West Midlands currently have issued reduced timetables in place over the next few days.

RMT union members are due to strike for two more days this week with travellers being advised to avoid rail travel from 21, 23 and 26 June (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).

Grand Central Kitchen (Google Street View image)

‘We are losing business’

Speaking to BirminghamWorld, Adam Skinner, a senior worker at the Grand Central Kitchen restaurant, which is located just outside Birmingham New Street Station, said the cafe is currently trading at ‘around a quarter’ of what they usually would.

He said: “We are losing a lot of business– we’re right across from New Street, so we get all the workers commuting, but at the moment we’re running at around a quarter of what we usually would do.

“We’re just doing what we can, serving as many people as possible that do come in, but we are going to be at a much less profit this week.”

The RMT has suggested it could continue the strikes until Christmas if demands on pay and conditions are not met.

Adam said: “That’s a big concern, because if we were to go months at a quarter profit, then it’s going to be a stuggle to keep the business open.

“Not to mention staff having to get into work – it’s a nightmare trying to get the staff in for the day at the moment because they can’t commute to work.

“I live in Wolverhampton, so I rely on the trains, and this morning I had to leave an hour and a half earlier than I usually would just to get to work – I had to get the bus which takes around an hour and a half.”

Adam, a single father, said he thinks the strikes are ‘ridiculous’. He added: “I’m a minimum wage worker – I have been my entire life. I’ve never been on a salary and the fact that it’s making it difficult for me to get to work and even earn – I’m a single father as well – it’s ridiculous in my opinion.”

‘It’s like being back in lockdown’

One independent shop manager in Birmingham city centre, who didn’t want to be named, compared the impact of the RMT strikes to that of the Covid lockdowns.

He said: “It’s like being back in lockdown – it’s that bad.

“I don’t know enough about working on the railways to make a call, but they’re not the only people struggling for money at the moment, but the knock-on effect is woeful. If it were to drag on that would be extremely problematic.”

Cherry Reds cafe, Birmingham

The duty manager at Cherry Reds cafe bar on John Bright Street, said the cafe was ‘a lot quieter’ on Wednesday.

She said: “We are definitely quieter than usual today - there’s been a drop off. We would be worried if it (strike action) goes on and were to last for a few weeks.”

What has RMT said?

BirminghamWorld spoke with John Watson, Regional Admin Manager for RMT Midlands on Monday (20 June).

Responding to concerns over how the strikes will impact people across the region, he said: “We totally sympathise and it’s not something we’ve just done at the top of our heads – or just decided to suddenly do.

“This is happening after months and months of trying to push the government into talks.

“I’m a communter myself and travel into Birmingham everyday from my home station, and this is not just happening over the pay - a lot of this is over working conditions and job losses that are potentially coming.”

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