Unions have “scented weakness” in the government’s response to the British Airways (BA) cabin crew strike and this has led to the wave of strikes announced recently, the Conservative leader has warned.
David Cameron also criticised Prime Minister Gordon Brown for failing to support the non-striking BA cabin crew staff.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I think a leader should say ‘of course, if people want to go to work, they should go to work and I back them going to work’.
“I think the unions have scented weakness in the government and that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing quite so many strikes.”
The comments came as the second strike against BA by Unite members was under way.
But Brown said “it was complete and utter nonsense” that the government was not able take tough action against strikes because of Labour’s relationship with unions.
He added the number of days lost in industrial disputes under Labour was one-tenth of what it had been under the last Conservative government.
Brown said: “We want BA workers to be back at work, so we’ve said we don’t want this strike. But we also want to make it possible for arbitration and negotiation to take place.”
Unite also rejected Cameron’s comments and said he had shown a lack of knowledge about “real industrial relations”.
Unite has now warned that while it was hopeful that talks would resume with BA, strikes could continue after Easter, although no further action would be taken before 14 April.