Boris Johnson among Conservatives calling for 'Thatcherite zeal' against trade unions

One Tory wants to curb 'abusive militant minority,' while union bosses condemn 'the rhetoric of the dictator'

Tories have called for curbs on trade unions' powers to call a strike, with Boris Johnson encouraging the government to show "some Thatcherite zeal" against potential industrial action this year.

In an echo of the late Baroness Thatcher's campaign against union influence in the 1980s, the London mayor said it was "farcical" that a strike could go ahead without the backing of the majority of members eligible to vote.

He told The Sun: "It often results in a strike backed by just one in 10 union members, antagonising millions of commuters in the process and costing London and the UK billions every year.

"I'd urge the Government to act with some Thatcherite zeal and at the very least legislate against strikes supported by less than half of all union members."

Johnson's most troublesome union leader - Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which has called Tube strikes in the capital - accused the mayor of starting a "campaign to destabilise (Prime Minister David) Cameron."

A recent report by the Conservative group on the London Assembly estimated Tube strikes cost the economy £48 million a day, and that industrial action between 2005 and 2009 cost £1 billion.

The call for new laws making it illegal to take action without the majority of members' support follows unions raising the prospect of a general strike in protest at the Government's austerity measures.

The proposed 24-hour walkout - backed earlier this month by the country’s two biggest unions - would be the first time since 1926 that private and public-sector workers have co-ordinated a nationwide mass action.

Tory MP Dominic Raab, who is leading a campaign for fresh powers, also told The Sun: "Margaret Thatcher injected a dose of democracy into the unions, to empower their members and protect Britain.

"We now face a hot summer of discontent, with reckless strikes from schools to airports that most union members refused to back.

"It's high time we had extra safeguards to protect the hard-working majority from this abusive militant minority."

His fellow backbencher Priti Patel said: "Defending the rights of people to work without fear of intimidation, bullying or violence is exactly what Margaret Thatcher championed and this legislation could once again put the rights of workers above the vested interests of the left and their union barons."

But TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the move to impose a turnout threshold on strike ballots would be "grossly hypocritical" when MPs did not need the support of 50% of all voters to win election.

She said: "The truth is that union members - particularly in the emergency services - are always reluctant to take strike action and only do so when no other way of resolving a dispute is available and only after a proper ballot.

"The first thing that any dictator does is attack democratic unions."

Mr Crow said: "This is the same old union-bashing, Thatcherite rhetoric from Boris Johnson and his cheerleaders in the Tory Party as they wind up his campaign to destabilise Cameron on the back of ripping up workers rights.

"They know full well that any provocative attempt to turn transport workers into forced labour rather than a free workforce would lead to a total shutdown in the capital.

"This bunch need to cut out the rhetoric of the dictator, and the hypocrisy of having one form of democracy for the boss class and another for the working class, and get on with doing their jobs instead of posturing across the media."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project