Union chief Mick Lynch has compared Liz Truss’s government to a “bad smell” as more than 40,000 RMT members joined a national rail strike on Saturday.
Speaking at a picket line outside Euston station in London, the RMT general secretary criticised the “incompetence” of the new prime minister and chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, claiming it was only matched by their ego.
“They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know how to be economists, they don’t know how to run the railway,” he said.
“The quicker they get out the way and let people who are competent in, the better it will be for all of us.”
Asked how long the government would remain in power, he said with a laugh: “We’ll see. Things linger, don’t they? Like bad smells.”
His comments came as passengers were told only to travel by rail if absolutely necessary with just one in five scheduled services expected to run. Many parts of the UK will have no rail services at all.
Lynch refuted Truss’s attack on unions during her Conservative party conference speech, in which she said they were part of an “anti-growth coalition”, insisting: “We want the country to succeed.”
“The idea that I’m sitting around with other people saying, ‘Let’s form a coalition so we can stop economic growth in Britain’, it’s just a nonsense,” he said.
“Everyone believes in economic growth, otherwise the economy doesn’t move forward. But what they mean by economic growth is the rich keep getting richer and working people continue to have their conditions diluted in the name of profit.”
He added: “I’m not deflected by what Liz Truss says, she seems to be an incompetent – her incompetence is only matched by her ego, and the same can be said for Kwasi Kwarteng.
“They’re saying that we’re an anti-growth coalition; they had to go out and print £65bn to prop up the bond market but they want to blame railway workers for what’s going on in the country.”
It is in the union’s interests for the country to do well, he said, adding that in order to do so a new government was needed.
“We’re not part of any anti-growth coalition. We’re not against the economy, we’re not against the country, we want the country to succeed,” he said.
“And we want our people to succeed within that country – it’s in our interests. But I don’t think we’re going to get that off this current regime.”
It is the last nationwide strike scheduled by the RMT or Aslef, the train drivers’ union, after industrial action on Saturday and Wednesday halted services on the first and last days of this week’s Tory party conference in Birmingham.