Security staff at Eurostar in London have announced four days of strikes in the run-up to Christmas in the latest industrial action likely to disrupt the peak travel season.
The RMT rail union said members would strike on December 16, 18, 22 and 23. Eurostar runs services between London and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
The union said that some of the striking staff earned as little as £10.66 an hour — only just above the UK minimum wage — and that they had been offered a below-inflation pay rise.
Security staff are critical to Eurostar operations because passengers have to undergo airport-style security checks before boarding trains. The security staff are employed by outsourcing group Mitie.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said it was “disgraceful” that key operational staff at Eurostar were 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,” Lynch said.
The union said that 81 per cent of those participating in a ballot on action had voted in favour.
The Eurostar strikes will add to the disruption on the UK rail network ahead of Christmas.
In November, the RMT announced plans for four 48-hour stoppages by staff at Network Rail, owner of the rail network, and 14 train operators. Those strikes are set for December 13-14 and 16-17, as well as January 3-4 and 6-7.
Drivers belonging to the Aslef union are also in an ongoing industrial dispute with 11 train operators, although it currently has no strikes scheduled.
Eurostar said it was “aware” that negotiations between Mitie and the unions were “ongoing”.
“If there is any impact on services we will update customers as soon as possible,” it said.
In recent months, Eurostar has struggled to handle passenger security checks, partly because post-Brexit rules require border staff to stamp the passports of UK citizens boarding trains.
The change means that passport checks take longer than previously, when officials simply inspected documents.
The operator has withdrawn stops at Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International stations to concentrate on its busiest UK station, at St Pancras International.
The Eurostar Group, which also owns the Thalys high-speed rail service linking France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, is controlled by SNCF, the French, state-owned train operator.