Boris Johnson has warned commuters to brace themselves for more strikes as the government ruled out meeting public sector workers’ demands for pay rises matching the soaring rate of inflation.
The prime minister said people must be prepared to “stay the course” as the RMT rail union staged the first of three walkouts planned this week in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Train services across the UK have ground to a halt, with further strikes planned for Thursday and Saturday.
Addressing his cabinet this morning, Johnson said: “I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.
“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.”
Unions representing teachers, junior doctors, civil servants and local authority staff are all threatening to ballot members on strike action amid predictions that the UK could be hit by a “summer of discontent”.
But at cabinet, Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak and Treasury secretary Simon Clarke told colleagues that giving in to public sector wage demands would simply raise inflation - which the Bank of England have forecast could hit 11 per cent this year - even more.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister said the public would expect the government to stick within their means at a time of global cost of living pressures.
“The chancellor emphasised that the government had a responsibility to not take any action that would feed into inflationary pressures, or reduce the government’s ability to lower taxes in the future.”
He said the prime minister believed public sector pay increases in line with inflation were “not feasible across the board at the moment”.
“The consensus is that providing pay rises that chase inflation only adds to the problem and it is that act which is what would take most money away from the public in the long term,” the spokesman said.
“The view is that if we were to chase inflation in this way, by matching all demands on public sector pay, some of which would involve matching inflation and adding additional on top of that, that would be inflationary, and that’s what in the long term would actually make people feel like they had less money going forward.”