Strikes are effective. Don’t believe me? Then look at the BBC website

Is it any surprise that London Underground workers walk out when the media - and the BBC of all places - ignores the issues until there is a strike?

Is it any surprise that London Underground workers walk out when the media – and the BBC of all places – ignores the issues until there is a strike? asks James Bloodworth

The media, especially the print media, are often extremely negative about striking workers, who are said to be “holding the country to ranson”, “causing chaos” or “making commuter’s lives a misery”.

“Travel chaos as services halt in latest walkout over ticket office closures,” boomed the Evening Standard on its website this morning. Even the BBC can at times spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on the minor inconveniences caused by strikes (and let’s be honest, a tube strike is annoying but being slightly late for work is a minor inconvenience) rather than the issues which have prompted workers to walk out in the first place.

Indeed, it’s worth remembering that people don’t choose to go on strike because they like losing pay. They do so to defend pay and conditions – and in the case of the tube strikes, the services that the public rely on.

And yet, if the media don’t like strike action, then perhaps they ought not to only give media coverage to trade union issues when strike action is proposed. Because as a cursory look at the BBC website demonstrates, in the case of London Underground’s dispute with the RMT the corporation is not particularly interested in ticket office closures and job cuts unless a strike is threatened.

Don’t believe me? Then go to the BBC News website, look at the tube strike story, and then look at ‘related stories’ – the only time ticket office closures seem to feature on the BBC is when a strike is threatened:

BBC strike coveragej

Is it any surprise that London Underground workers walk out when the media – and the BBC of all places – ignores the issues until there is a strike? As a friend who is on strike today phrased it to me this morning, perhaps if they [the media] covered our issues during ‘peacetime’ then it wouldn’t have to come to strikes so often.

7 Responses to “Strikes are effective. Don’t believe me? Then look at the BBC website”

  1. johnb78

    “the issues that have prompted workers to walk out in the first place” consist of the RMT’s bizarre determination to cling to an organisational structure that was suited to a 19th century railway, before the invention of smartcards and automated ticket machines made ticket offices outside of major tourist destinations obsolete.

    If the RMT’s negotiation point were “yes, these jobs are redundant, but we want to defend our members’ rights to get paid, recruited into other roles, or paid off”, then that would be fine. They have refused to negotiate on this basis. Instead, they persist in the claim that they understand better than TfL how best to deliver public transport to Londoners, which is really absolutely sod all to do with their remit.

  2. Reuben

    Having no staff on the station platform is not the future. Children, the elderly, people who get disability travel cards etc are not able to purchase tickets or top up oysters at the normal machines. In addition, why should we be limiting the tube to people who understand the automated systems, think of your mum trying to work out whether she needs an all day return or a travel pass etc. Having staff there to help those who can’t use the machines is not 19th century, it is common sense.

  3. Metatone

    johnb78 says “sod all to do with their remit” – which sums up the really broken attitude to labour relations in the UK. This is why we can’t match Germany for productivity, we’re unwilling to add the intelligence of workers to the enterprise…

  4. Matbu764

    Ok, but the BBC don’t put those issues on their website when there isn’t a strike because far fewer people are going to read it and there’s a lot of more interesting stuff to report about. “Union doesn’t like proposed job cuts” is a bit like “dog bites man”, it’s not news, a strike is, because it doesn’t happen that often and directly effects people. If there was a news headline about a union proposing job cuts I’d probably read the story because it sounds unusual, but I’m skipping straight over the headline that says “union opposes job cuts” and going to read about what’s happening in Ukraine or Syria because it’s par for the course.

  5. Selohesra

    Thought issue was about ticket offices – not many of those staff on platform – just sat behind reinforced windows insulated from the public

  6. George Smith

    This is a bit silly. Surely related articles to a news story about a strike are likely to be about other strikes? Doesn’t mean there aren’t other news articles about pay & conditions?

  7. johnb78

    Yes, it is. The number of staff on platform and helping people use the machines will *increase*.

Leave a Reply