Boris Johnson says he will not try to ‘bust’ unions like Thatcher if rail strikes continue

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would “not condone such language” as workers stage a strike over pay and job cuts

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said there is “no point” in having an inefficient railway in Britain – but says he will not try to bust unions like Thatcher did.

The Iron Lady reportedly branded unions an “enemy within” and ordered officials to “undermine union membership” in the 1980s.

Asked if he would “smash” unions like the ex-PM in the face of a general strike, Boris Johnson told reporters on a trip to Rwanda: “I don’t believe in… I wouldn’t condone such language.”

But he was digging in his heels over plans to give 5 million public sector workers a real pay cut – to avoid prices skyrocketing as a result.

He said they would “get a raise”, although they made it clear that this would be below the 9.1% inflation rate – a real cut.

And he claimed train drivers “earn around £59,000 on average” “so they’re not being badly paid at the moment”.

RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “destroying” the negotiations


Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock)

This is despite fact-checking website Full Fact saying drivers are not involved in the RMT strike and the average salary for workers in the railway sector excluding train and tram drivers was £36,800 in 2021.

Mr Johnson said: “We have a problem now, which is that ridership has come down a lot, it’s down about 25%. We must operate the railroad economically for the benefit of the railroaders themselves and their families.

“There is no point in having a rail system in this country that is so uneconomical that you have to keep increasing ticket prices and driving more and more people off the rails.

“You can’t continue with practices like walking time, with box offices that sell very few tickets. They need to modernize.”
Mr Johnson dodged and said whether he was afraid of a general strike – which many have dubbed a summer of discontent.

He added: “We will continue to support public services.

“Don’t forget that this is a government that spends huge amounts on public services. We support people as best we can through an inflationary time.

“But you can’t hope for higher and higher wages when you have higher and higher prices. So we have to solve this problem.”

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