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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering