Union leaders have rejected revised offers to end industrial action on the railways – and announced more strikes over Christmas.
RMT members at Network Rail are being urged by union bosses to reject new pay proposals and proceed with walkouts on 13-14 and 16-17 December.
The RMT has also announced further strike action from 6pm on Christmas Eve to 6am to 27 December.
RMT members will be asked in a referendum whether they should proceed with strikes – a move that could represent a nod to discontent over lost pay through strikes to date or, on the other hand, demonstrate solidarity over their fight.
The Transport Secretary described the escalation as “incredibly disappointing”
The rail dispute is just one of many threatening to deliver a winter of discontent as unions seek pay rises in line with the rate of inflation to help shield their members from the cost of living crisis.
There is the looming threat of action by nurses, firefighters and National Highways staff.
It is building on a wave of strikes among other professions including teachers and bus drivers.
The dispute between Royal Mail and its 115,000 frontline workers has become increasingly bitter and shows no sign of letting up in time for Christmas following a wave of action over the Black Friday discount shopping bonanza and beyond.
The government is coming under increasing pressure from backbenchers to press ahead with reforms to strike laws that would guarantee a minimum level of service.
The prospect of more intense strike action on the railways is not just bad news for those seeking to travel ahead of the holidays.
Business has become increasingly vocal on the need for a resolution, saying the action is costing hospitality and retailers billions of pounds at a time they can least afford it.
Mr Lynch said of the state of play: “We remain available for talks in order to resolve these issues but we will not bow to pressure from the employers and the government to the detriment of our members.”
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, accused the RMT of “playing fast and loose with people’s Christmas plans.
He said: “This response from the RMT to a significantly enhanced offer exposes their true priority – using the British public and Network Rail workers as pawns in a fight with the government.
“What use is a referendum that means the strike disruption is inevitable?”.
Further union talks with the RDG are planned for Tuesday.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announced it was calling off Network Rail strikes planned for December so it could put an offer to its members.
The TSSA had been due to strike on 17 December and take other forms of industrial action from 13 December.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that, despite a new and improved deal offering job security and a fair pay rise, the RMT is not only continuing with upcoming industrial action but has called more strikes over Christmas.
“It’s especially disappointing given the TSSA union has described this new and improved deal as the ‘best we can achieve through negotiation’ and called off strikes.
“The government has played its part by facilitating a fair and decent offer but, by instructing its members to reject it, the RMT has failed to play its part and our rail network now faces more harmful disruption rather than helpful discussion.”