Transport secretary Mark Harper claimed that the tide had turned against the Railroad, Shipping and Transport union (RMT) when the latest rail strike began.
Major disruption is expected as RMT proceeds with two 48-hour strikes on Network Rail and 14 train companies on Tuesday and Friday.
Mr Harper argued that “almost 40 percent” of union members voted in favor of the proposal to resolve the dispute, suggesting that the RMT leadership had lost support among railroad workers.
“I think it has shifted the direction of people who see the reasonableness of our proposals, taking into account the interests of both the traveling public and taxpayers,” he told GB News.
RMT announced on Monday that the strikes would continue after 63.6 percent of members rejected Network Rail’s offer, with an 83 percent turnout.
Mick Lynch denied that he had lost support for the strikes, even though 91 percent of members voted in favor of the strike mandate in October.
Asked if he admits support for the strikes is waning among members, Lynch told BBC Radio 4. Today program: “This is what the government is telling you… we have a clear majority [for strikes]”
If the support is falling, the union boss, who presses again, said, “No, it is not. There are big pickets today… Our members stand by our word and are ready to take action until we reach an agreement that we can agree on.”
Trains only run from 7.30am to 6.30pm on strike days this week, but there will be no train service in most parts of the country, including most of Scotland and Wales.
With more strikes planned, Network Rail has warned that it will cut service significantly as trains become more crowded and start later, possibly until January 8th.
Lynch insisted that its members still have the support of the public and said it was the government that “broke the people’s Christmas”. told the BBC Breakfast: “We understand the anger, but we get a lot of support from the public.”
Up until January, Network Rail had offered a 5 percent salary increase for this year retrospectively, a 4 percent increase at the beginning of 2023, and a guarantee of no mandatory job losses until January 2025.
The RMT leader rejected a proposal that members opposed reform, accusing the government of “deliberately blocking” a deal.
“We are not against change – we are always dealing with it,” he said, adding that his union is “ready to compromise” and still hopes an agreement can be reached in the coming weeks.
Rejecting reports that he blocked a 10 percent bid for two years, Mr. Harper also remained hopeful of a deal. “I think it’s a deal that needs to be made and I’m very happy to continue the conversation.”
But the transport secretary did not dismiss proposals that the government insisted that chauffeur-only operation was a condition for a better salary offer. “Reform is on the table since the beginning of the process”
The controversy comes as the latest official figures show 417,000 working days lost in strikes in October – the highest number since 2011.
“This was largely due to the rail and postal strikes,” Sam Beckett, head of economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics, told the BBC.