Mick Lynch urged transport secretary Mark Harper to find a compromise with unions to stop the strikes. (Photo: Guy Smallman via Getty Images)
Rail strikes could last all winter and even into next spring, union boss Mick Lynch has warned.
The general secretary of the RMT union said it was not his “plan” for industrial action to continue but that the government had to find a compromise.
Speaking to reporters at a rally in Westminster, he said: “We’re not in this for the sake of it.
“We want the companies to make us proposals that will settle the dispute. I know that the companies could do that.
“The secretary of state has got to decide what his stance is and if he unlocks some funding and unlocks some new positions of principle, then there could be a settlement to this dispute very quickly.”
The new transport secretary, Mark Harper, has indicated he may take a softer stance with the unions than his predecessor Grant Shapps, who refused to meet the unions all summer.
Earlier on Wednesday Harper told LBC he would be “very happy” to meet trade unions and to “listen to their concerns”.
Lynch’s warning comes as members of the RMT, which already staged a series of damaging strikes during the summer, are set to walk out again next week.
The union’s members are striking over working conditions and after they rejected the offer of a 8% pay rise over two years on the grounds it does not match inflation.
The government wants to end the strikes with a new bill that would require minimum levels of service to run even during industrial action.
Lynch attacked the transport strikes bill as a “move by the government and the powers that be to conscript Labour.”
He said the bill would enable employers to name individual workers and get them to cross the picket line or face the prospect of dismissal.
However, he said the current wave of industrial action would not be affected by the new bill.
Despite the disruption caused by the strikes, Lynch said he believed the public was getting “stronger” behind the unions’ cause.
“They [the Tories] need an enemy because they’ve set everybody else up to be their enemy and everybody hates them.
“Grant Shapps assumed that the RMT would be out on a limb in April and May and June and July of this year, that we would go on strike, that the public would hate us, the travelling public would hate us and public opinion would be completely opposed.
“That that’s proven not to be the case, and in fact, we think people are getting stronger behind us.”
He added: “I think workers are on the march and they’re looking for some results from this government and at the minute they’re not getting them.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Lynch joked that if he could send any politician to join Matt Hancock on I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! it would be home secretary Suella Braverman.
“Suella Braverman could try landing on a foreign shore and she how she gets on,” he said.
“I think it’s the most outrageous thing — this man is paid to be in there, working.
“And Boris Johnson, by the way, took a three-week holiday to the Caribbean and came back when he wanted. Nobody’s taken the whip off him.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.