Getting people moving

when strikes hit

When transport unions agree to strike it affects the entire nation but what is the impact on corporate events and the managers responsible for getting people to places?

BNC club members have got together to chat about their experiences.


“We cancelled our conference on 12th May, or rather, rescheduled it,” says trade event organiser Laura.

“A lot of our delegation are teachers and students and were coming from all over the country by train. They were cancelling left, right and centre because they couldn’t get to us so we decided to reschedule. Luckily the venue accommodated the change and didn’t charge us.

“We’ve lost a few of the original delegation (as the second date doesn’t work for all) but I’m hoping for no more strikes in September, when the new date is.”

From our research, we can only tell if rail operators are going to strike about a month in advance.

The two unions representing train operators are the ASLEF and the RMT and information can be found on their websites including dates and lines effected.

20,000 RMT workers will strike in June and ASLEF members, who most recently took action on 12th May, will walk out again for two further 24-hour strikes on Wednesday 31st May and Saturday 2nd June.

Delays may also be apparent on 1st June as rail workers will not be working overtime that day.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have been working out better packages for their rail operators but a change is yet to be seen in England.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, explains that although they realise the disruption striking causes, they are set on achieving better packages for their members across the UK. 

“We have successfully negotiated significant pay increases for our members with the governments of the devolved nations.

‘Sadly, this is in stark contrast with the response from the Westminster government. The 15 train companies with which we are in dispute – because they have not offered their drivers, our members, an increase in salary since 2019 – and the Tory government that stands behind them do not appear to be interested in getting a resolution that serves passengers and businesses as well as staff and will help to get Britain’s railways back on track.

“On TfW we have negotiated a deal which modernises the railway in Wales. The deal offers a significant increase in salary for changes to conditions.

“The latest deal with ScotRail is a further increase in salary and improvement in conditions – and the fourth increase since our members at those 15 TOCs represented by the RDG and controlled by the DfT have had a rise.

“This is further proof that ASLEF is willing to negotiate in good faith and modernise our railway. And further proof that the failure of negotiations with the TOCs in England is the responsibility of Mark Harper, the DfT, and the RDG. That has been laid bare for all to see.

“We do not want to go on strike – we do not want to inconvenience passengers, we have families and friends who use the railway, too, and we believe in investing in rail for the future of this country – but the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand. It is up to them to come up with a sensible, and realistic, offer and up to the government not to hinder this process.”

Weighing-in on the argument are events industry bodies such as UKHospitality, who said recently that strikes are costing the industry billions in lost sales.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “It’s incredibly frustrating that almost a year on from the start of this dispute, there appears to be no resolution in sight.

“Despite some hope that pay offers would bring rail strikes to an end, hospitality businesses are losing hope that the crucial summer season would be uninterrupted by disruption.

“Collectively, hospitality businesses across the country have lost more than £3 billion in lost sales as a result of the strikes and there is no doubt that will increase as a result of today’s announcement, particularly as it will now impact the busy, high-demand summer period.

“I would urge all parties to redouble their efforts in negotiations to reach a resolution and end this long-running dispute, which continues to harm businesses, workers, consumers and public confidence in the rail network.”

Until a resolution is found between all the unions, the rail companies and the government, event professionals are going to have to stay on their toes – and find venues willing to be flexible, such as  Head of Events Julia did.

“ The strikes are causing havoc, but we were able to move our event to a day before without any extra charges,” she told The BNC. 


Events Manager Emma, who organises large events for a national federation, said that so far this year three events have all been impacted by rail strikes.

Pooling resources and putting quick-thinking ‘plan-Bs’ into action ensured that the final event took place, despite the strikes.

“One was hybrid so went ahead and had 20 in person and 300 online; one we moved to virtual as it was the best option for the audience and one event at the ACC in Liverpool was hit by rail, tube and teacher strikes.

“It’s one of our flagship events with a large exhibition so we had to do everything in our power to make it happen in-person.

“As soon as the train strike was announced we reacted quickly and communicated with delegates to reassure them the event was going ahead as planned and what plans we were putting in place.

“We organised coaches to London, Manchester and Birmingham which I think was our main winner and really reassured delegates they could get home.

“We encouraged delegates to stay an extra night in Liverpool, which many did do. We organised working spaces at the venue and at a local hotel the following day.

“We also organised an extra networking evening for those staying the extra night. For speakers, we really pushed for them to attend in-person by covering their additional expenses of staying an extra night and we had no cancellations and only five remote speakers out of 130.

“Obviously it was great to be able to accommodate the extra remote speakers with the help of the great AV team at the ACC. Out of nearly 800 delegates we only had five cancellations and the event was a great success despite the challenges!”


Learning from last year’s strikes, meant that financial Events Operations Manager Lisa has built strike action disruption into her contracts.

“We had a train and tube strike affect a large black tie event last year and luckily the venue gave us one free date change so we had to move everything. (It then got cancelled but we couldn’t take the risk).

“I have since had to get train strikes etc added into contracts due to concerns of this including the below clause added to a contract just last week,”

Train Strikes: In such cases, all payments will be transferred to the event with a new date so long as notice is given to move the events at least ten days ahead of the event date. In the event that less than ten days’ notice is provided there will be a date change fee applicable. The company agrees to move the event within 30 days of contracted event at no additional charge in line with 18.3, any dates chosen out with this timescale may be subject to rate change.


As well as national rail and tube strikes, other industrial action is taking place at airports in the UK and abroad.

A growing number of airport security staff (2,000 workers overall at Terminals 3 and 5) have taken action at  Heathrow and planners taking groups overseas may also hit delays when travelling to places like Spain, Portugal and France when air traffic control staff strike.

“I arrived at the airport two weeks ago for an event and didn’t realise there was a security strike and the queues were crazy!” said one BNC eventprof.


To add to recent chaos, strike action taken by the passport office hit the travel industry earlier this year.

A quarter of all 4,000 workers took action for five weeks in April, the month known for being the busiest in the calendar. It is an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions so more strike action may be ahead.

BNC’s Managing Director, Kim Paulden, says: “Strikes are planned at time to have the most impact, cause the most stress on the system and pressurise the government into supporting workers with better packages.

“The best thing that we can do as a Club is share knowledge of when the strikes may occur and offer advice amongst our community as to how to plan events around them.

“Strikes affecting air travel happen during peak travel times, such as the Easter holidays and the May half term.

“The rail strikes are planned to clash with big events like the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool and the FA Cup final   Saturday 3rd June.

“Furthermore, forthcoming travel problems could disrupt the Manchester Metrolink tram system when workers strike over the weekend of June 10 and 11 as a popular city festival is taking place.”

Kim advises to keep communication open with hospitality agents, plan-in extra time for airport security and he also advises buying things like rail tickets through an organisation like Ticketline, who are very amenable when it comes to working with options for refunds, rebookings or making alternative plans to travel by coach.

“I’d also like Club members to write-in with their recommendations of venues who have been willing to work with them and be flexible when strikes have impacted on dates and events need to be moved. We’d really like to give a shout-out to those venue managers for working with our eventprofs instead of adding to the problems they are already faced with.”