Andy Burnham: Striking air and rail workers have my support

·2 min read
Andy Burnham - Phil Noble/Reuters
Andy Burnham - Phil Noble/Reuters

Andy Burnham on Sunday voiced support for striking air and rail workers in a break from the Labour Party’s national position.

The Greater Manchester mayor accused the Government of “demonising” workers amid a series of high-profile disputes, which saw RMT railway union workers walk out last month while British Airways staff are also planning industrial action.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party took a nuanced position on the rail strikes, urging negotiations but stopping short of condemning the strikes outright.

“They would say, the unions say themselves, that nobody wants to see strikes,” Mr Burnham said. “But when you're faced with a Government that is sitting on its hands and doing nothing then strikes become inevitable.

“And I’m putting to you we don’t want to see that, it requires people getting around the table and sorting this out.

“I support the rail workers, I support the BA staff, in that they have got to do what they need to do to protect their incomes.”

Sunday Morning programme - Jeff Overs/BBC
Sunday Morning programme - Jeff Overs/BBC

He said he had once joined striking workers on the picket line in Greater Manchester when there were bus strikes over a policy of “fire and rehire”.

“You’ve got to judge these situations, haven’t you, as to what extent there is a principle at stake and, where there’s a principle at stake, I have no problem in showing that support.”

In comments he would later apologise for, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, last month refuted the suggestion members of a “serious party of Government” should take part in such protests.

Asked by the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme if he would run for Labour leader if Sir Keir was forced to resign over “beergate”, Mr Burnham noted the party rulebook would prohibit this because he is not an MP.

“There isn’t a vacancy and I don’t expect there to be one,” he said. “The only reason I’m coming on this programme this morning is to support the leader, to support the Labour Party, in taking the fight to the Government.”

Mr Burnham, who has not ruled out running for Labour leader after 2024, insisted he remained committed to serving a “full second term” in his mayoral role.