Last week the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which sets out a process for a mutually agreed way forward.\r\n\r\nThe union has been in dispute with the RDG for months over pay and job security guarantees and the resulting strikes have had a huge effect on the catering and hospitality industry. However, it seems that strike action on the mainline is over as the RMT and RDG have agreed to work together on a resolution.\r\n\r\nDespite this breakthrough it is not all good news. The RMT has secured a further six month mandate from members to strike on the London Underground in a dispute over jobs, conditions and pension. With two separate ballots, one on pensions and one on pay, it seems that businesses in the capital are not out of the woods yet.\r\nWhere did this begin?\r\nThe story starts in June of last year when both Aslef and RMT unions staged the first national walk out since the 1980s. Both unions are involved in parallel disputes against 14 train operators who run most of the country\u2019s intercity mainline trains.\r\n\r\nThe Aslef union mainly represents train drivers while the RMT represents all other staff connected with the railways such as signallers, controllers and station staff. The RMT has so far staged industrial action on 34 days in the current wave of national strikes, with Aslef stopping work on 15 previous occasions. Both unions have also held overtime bans on certain days which has also affected services.\r\nWhat is the dispute over?\r\nThe RMT has claimed that Network Rail is threatening to cut safety-critical jobs, an allegation rejected by Network Rail, as part of its modernisation programme, which would also include an increase in working hours. In 2022, rail workers also asked for a 7% pay rise to keep up with rising inflation but were initially offered 2%, with an extra 1% linked to redundancies.\r\n\r\nCritics of the strike, including Network Rail, point to changing commuter habits, such as a reduction in ticket office use, as well as more working from home since the pandemic, and passenger numbers continuing to be significantly below levels. Network Rail attempted to close hundreds of ticket offices last month but this plan was scrapped after significant backlash from both unions and the general public.\r\nHow has this affected business?\r\nThe answer is that it has had a rather large impact on a firm's potential takings. The Night Time Industries Association estimated in September that the night time economy lost \u00a33.5bn as a result of strikes while UK Hospitality estimated that the strikes in May and June alone cost the hospitality industry \u00a3132m.\r\n\r\nIt is not just previous strikes that have cost businesses either. UKH reported last week that the uncertainty over whether there will be strikes during the festive period or not has seen 4 in 10 businesses report that their Christmas bookings are not the same as last year.\r\nWhere does this leave us?\r\nIt seems that the RMT and RDG will spend the festive period and the start of Spring working towards a resolution on their dispute and by all accounts should come to an agreement. One thing is for sure, their members will not be walking out over Christmas.\r\n\r\nHowever, this does not mean that there will be no mainline disruption over the festive period. While the RMT almost certainly will not walk out there is no guarantee that Aslef will not. They remain in dispute with the RDG and have not signed an MOU with them meaning there is a very real possibility that train drivers may walk out at some point over Christmas.\r\n\r\nMick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: \u201cAs always, we remain open to realistic and honourable talks, but you have shown - by your strength, unity, solidarity and resolve - that we will not roll over but will fight for the terms and conditions we have paid for through flexibility and productivity. The employers are supposed to pay us - we are not here to subsidise them.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe other issue for businesses is the previously mentioned mandate extension for the RMT on the London Underground. This gives them the power to ask members to walk out at any time over the six months. While it seems like the RMT and Transport for London will come to an agreement over pensions and conditions it is unlikely they will reach an agreement over pay. It is unclear whether they will ask members to strike over Christmas but the fact the threat is there could be costly for businesses.\r\n\r\nThe last thing to note is that the government announced new legislation last week which will force unions to provide minimum service levels on strike days of 40% capacity. This move, which comes as part of the government's Minimum Service Levels Act, is intended to ensure that "certain priority routes can remain open" though it is not yet clear which journeys will be covered.\r\n\r\nThis move has been criticised by unions including the Trade Unions Congress which called it \u201cunworkable and undemocratic\u201d so it remains to be seen whether this will lessen disruption on strike days and be of any help to hospitality businesses.