The UK Train and ambulance strikes could continue for months, the head of Britain’s biggest rail union has warned.
Mick Lynch said the RMT union, which launched the latest walkouts on Tuesday, had a mandate to take action until May and could “go further”.
People returning to work after the Christmas break have been told to avoid rail travel this week due to strikes running until Saturday.
The deal goes beyond pay and terms, but one side said a deal is close.
Mr Lynch apologized for “dragging out” the event but accused the government of “doing nothing” about the dispute.
He warned that if no agreement was reached, the workers would continue their strike.
“We have a mandate that runs until May this year, and if we have to go further, we will have to,” he warned.
However, Network Rail, which owns and manages the railway, claimed the deal was a “touch”.
Boss Tim Shoveller urged the union to “sit down with us” and look again at the deal struck before Christmas so they could “clarify” where elements of the deal were “misunderstood”.
The BBC understands a meeting on the rail dispute is being planned for Monday or Tuesday.
Mr Lynch said the meeting would be attended by “all stakeholders including the railways minister”.
The railways minister will also meet Aslef, the train drivers’ union, early next week.
“I don’t get paid because I can’t get to work”
Corinne Curtis, from Somerset, said she supports the right to strike and “doesn’t envy” the action, but said it means she has lost the equivalent of a month’s rent in earnings because she can’t get to work on strike days and is in strike mode. zero hours contract.
“The longer it goes on, it leads to built-up stress and anger. The train is my only option and that’s part of what’s really frustrating, knowing I’m being held for ransom,” she told the BBC.
Olga King, who commutes to London from Surrey, said train users had to deal with “high ticket prices for a very poor service”.
“The current train service is not fit for purpose and I don’t support train strikes because for them to strike they should at least be providing a decent service which they are not,” said the 35-year-old.
But Helen West, who commuted to Chester from Lancaster, said she had been “severely disrupted by the rail strikes” but added she had “solidarity” with the striking workers.
“I’ve heard the railway workers talking to each other about how exhausted they are – they’ve finished their shift and then almost immediately they’re being called off due to understaffing,” she said.
A major disruption due to UK train strike
This week’s outages are the latest in a series of strikes across the rail network which have caused major disruption.
Around 40,000 members of the 40,000 RMT employed by Network Rail and 14 rail carriers are holding two 48-hour strikes – January 3-4 and 6-7 – after rejecting offers in a dispute over pay, job security and working conditions.
Train drivers in the Aslef trade union are striking on 5 January at 15 railway companies in a dispute over pay.
The strikes affected services in England, Scotland and Wales. Network Rail said only 20% of services were running on Tuesday.
The trains that do run start later and finish much earlier than usual, with services usually running between 7.30am and 6.30pm on strike days.
Both Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operating companies, have people traveling only when “absolutely necessary” due to canceled and disrupted services.
Mr Lynch insisted his members wanted a settlement but said the Government had “torpedoed” negotiations with the rail companies by “putting terms in the dossier that they know we can never accept”.
But Transport Minister Mark Harper said he had “made sure” a new and improved offer had been put to the unions, which had been accepted by the other two unions.
“I would much prefer them to get out of the demonstrations and go back to the negotiating table to strike a deal on reform and payments with employers,” he said.