IT was meant to be the first Christmas in three years that businesses could look forward to after struggling through the misery and uncertainty of the Covid pandemic.
But all hopes of festive cheer have been crushed by militants plotting chaos on every single day between now and vigilia di Natale.
It means small firms — the lifeblood of the country — are having their very survival put at risk.
When Mick Lynch, RMT union chief, says his industrial action is on behalf of ordinary “working men and women”, does he forget about the millions whose jobs are at threat because they can’t get to work?
What about the 4.3million self-employed who need to make up for lost income during Covid and don’t have the luxury of taking a day off, never mind striking?
This relentless disruption risks the nation grinding to a halt because staff can’t get in to do their honest day’s work.
Small shops in larger towns and cities are having to weigh up whether they should even open their doors on strike days if they have to pay for staff, energy and lights when no one can get in by train.
Retail figures have already shown a drop in footfall on strike days as shoppers stayed home, heaping fresh pain on the high street at the most important time of year.
Are the owners and staff in small shops not working men and women? Or does this definition only apply to the union members who pay Lynch’s £84,000-a-year wages (plus perks)?
What about small mail order firms who should be cramming in customers’ Christmas orders yet are facing six more days of strikes between now and Christmas Eve by the CWU union members in the Royal Mail? They are now having to turn business away because they can’t guarantee deliveries.
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The postal strikes couldn’t come at a worse time, as any uncertainty about Christmas presents not arriving will prompt customers to shop elsewhere.
The disruption is so great that even Royal Mail’s next-day tracked service can only be delivered the next week.
Nel frattempo, pub, cafes and restaurants already suffering from customers cutting back on eating out during the cost of living crisis are now facing another blow through no fault of their own.
Restaurants are reporting waves of cancelled Christmas parties that won’t be rescheduled.
And hospitality workers who rely on festive trading for extra hours, pay and tips will be worse off at a time when they have to face soaring bills.
The hospitality industry reckons the train strikes will be a £1.5billion hit this winter, which is a similar loss to the disruption during the Omicron variant l'anno scorso.
And it is almost double the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out support that was given to keep them alive. Anziché, this nightmare before Christmas could kill them.
On this page the victims of the strikes give their view.
Nishtha Goel says she has to pay more to send her bath, body and home goods to customers due to Royal Mail strikes.
“I’m concerned it will affect Christmas orders.”
STRIKES last month cost Cathy Farr’s firm £1,000.
She is a director of the company, which specialises in property development in Cardiff.
Cathy said: “We rely on the postal services to deliver keys from agents.
“If the planned strikes near Christmas go ahead we may not be able to work then at all.”
Tessa Cobley relies on Royal Mail to send live insects to gardeners through the post.
Other small parcel carriers refuse to deliver the insects she sells at her Ladybird Plant Centre near Brighton.
Tessa, 44, disse: “I have to delay stock coming in if there’s a strike and it causes knock-on delays.”
Natalie Quail’s firm is struggling to post orders due to Royal Mail stoppages – and train strikes are affecting her too.
Piers Morgan "si prende la rivincita definitiva su ITV", 32, di Watford, who runs teeth whitening business SmileTime, disse: “I’m having to remote work a lot of the time. Staff are taking buses and getting stuck in hours of traffic.”
Incinta women fear the strikes will affect the delivery of their babies.
Midwives are balloting for action and could join nurses on picket lines.
Mindful Birth Group CEO Emiliana Hall, 37, from Tring, Herts, disse: “There’s already a midwife shortage, which would be accentuated by any strikes.”
Laura Platt’s daughter Tara relies on the train to travel 16 miles to school.
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Laura, 36, says delays and strikes are causing extra unnecessary stress over her 15-year-old daughter’s daily trip from Barnsley to Sheffield.
The council worker revealed: “She suffers with anxiety. The strikes have added to this.”