David Cameron to consider tougher anti-strike laws

Downing Street yesterday issued a strong condemnation of a strike by London Underground drivers that will cause two weeks of misery for commuters. But it only came after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, accused the Prime Minister of being “lily-livered” on the issue.

Mr Johnson is urging MPs and No 10 to back a Tory-led private member’s bill in the Commons which would require unions to get a minimum of 50 per cent backing for industrial action.

No 10 said Mr Cameron was prepared to listen to the arguments about changing the law and Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, said the rail union was spoiling for a fight.

But that cut little ice with Mr Johnson. He said he had repeatedly heard from ministers that they could act, but action had so far been lacking.

Many at Westminster believe Mr Cameron has little appetite for a confrontation with militant trade unions. Mr Johnson said: “There is a great deal of sense in reform of the union law and the Government needs to get a move on. We’ve heard a lot of muttering about this and ‘we’re studying all this’ – all that kind of thing.”

He added: “London Underground is one of the indispensable networks for one of the greatest cities in the world. I don’t think it should be held to ransom by a small minority of union hotheads.”

Mr Johnson, who some believe would relish challenging for the Tory leadership when Mr Cameron goes, is furious at current legislation which has enabled the RMT union to call walkouts despite only 29 per cent of its drivers voting for a strike.

It means London will be crippled by strike action later this month and in June, though only 11 per cent of all Tube drivers have voted for it. The strike has been prompted by the sacking of two drivers. Dominic Raab, a back-bench Tory MP, is trying to pilot his own bill through the Commons to ensure that in future a strike needs at least 50 per cent backing.

Lord Tebbit, who was a key architect of Margaret Thatcher’s anti-strike laws 30 years ago, has backed Mr Johnson’s call for strike ballot thresholds.

He said: “We have now got a new rash of people like Bob Crow (the RMT general secretary) who don’t take the view that they need substantial backing to call a strike and intimidation has increased. We need to have thresholds.”

Mr Hammond told MPs yesterday that the RMT’s decision was “highly irresponsible”.

He added: “No one in this Government is spoiling for a fight with the unions, but the unions appear to be spoiling for a fight with London.”

He also warned union bosses that the decision to strike “is only strengthening the hand of those, including the Mayor, who are calling for tougher industrial relations laws.”

The Telegraph

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About elaineonyc

HR generalist who is passionate about the benefits of good HR practice. Experienced in delivering strategic and operational HR initiatives to clients in both public and private sectors. Specialises in working with SMEs.
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