RMT union boss Mick Lynch has accused the government of “deliberately obstructing” a resolution with workers.
The railway union general secretary said a latest pay offer from ministers was “entirely unacceptable” as it came in “way below” inflation.
Today marks the first day of four days of walk-outs by railway workers this week, with strike action planned on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by Friday and Saturday
Lynch called on the government to help “facilitate” a deal between workers and rail firms, speaking on BBC Breakfast.
He claimed the government was “preventing” an “opportunity to develop solutions”.
“We’ve seen it with the nurses, we’ve seen it with the paramedics,” he said.
“They are obstructing these deals because they want to keep wages lowered and they want to strip out the terms and conditions for many people”.
“It’s the same agenda being put forward to workers, that you’ve got to get poorer while profits and dividends are at record levels.”
However, transport minister Mark Harper said the pay offer was “reasonable” and said it was “in line with what people are getting in the private sector.”
Harper said it was “out of hand” that the RMT had rejected a latest pay offer of a nine per cent increase over two years and no compulsory job losses until early 2025.
Network Rail’s improved offer had been accepted by other train unions, he said on BBC Breakfast.
“A fair and reasonable offer has been made, we do also need to see reform agreed at the same time,” Harper added. “The rail industry is not sustainable the way it is at the moment.”
The minister also said there was not a “bottomless pit of money to end this [dispute]”.
Harper’s comments were echoed by the DfT, which said the government had played its part in brokering the deal “and now it’s time for unions to play theirs.”
Industrial action will mean that just 20 per cent of services are expected to run on strike days.
It comes as the country is battling cold temperatures and snow, making travelling across the country difficult.
Hospitality businesses have warned they are seeing one third of bookings cancelled ahead of the railway strikes.