It’s the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions

A survey has shown that 92 per cent of trade union members believe the British media is too cynical against them, writes Unions21 director Dan Whittle.

Dan Whittle is the director of Unions 21

A frustrated national journalist of many years told me that some of the coverage of the London firefighters’ dispute has been among the worst examples of anti-union, biased coverage he had ever had the misfortune to read. This had in his view followed hard on the heels of biased, factually incorrect coverage of the post dispute, unions’ role in Labour leadership election, etc.

His view was that there is little point in trying to sharpen up the act of unions – which is already pretty sharp and getting sharper – when the media seems incredibly biased against them.

Trade unionists agree, a survey we conducted last week reveals: 9 in 10 (92 per cent) believe the British Media is too cynical against unions, and about the same proportion think the bias is getting worse.

None of the 100 members, lay reps and full time officials we surveyed believed there was a neutral or positive bias across the media. The Mirror was the only large circulation daily which a majority of those who answered the question believed was biased towards unions (60 per cent), while 43.7 per cent believe The Guardian is at least slightly biased against unions, and 53.2 per cent The Independent.

Almost a third of survey respondents gave journalists just 3-out-of-10 for their knowledge of unions. But on the other hand, survey respondents believe unions could do better in their communication with the media: 40 per cent gave unions marks 1-4 out of ten for their communications.

The frustration is clear: unions have over the past few years innovated, supported members (and businesses) through the recession, and sought to promote credible alternatives to cuts – while the press response has been characterised by a confrontational and macho portrayal reminiscent of the 70s.

You don’t see twenty and thirtysomething journalists turning up to work in platform shoes and bell bottom jeans but they are more than happy to frame union matters using language as outdated as spandex trousers when talking of union “bosses” about to cause a “Winter/Summer/Autumn/Spring of discontent”.

But journalists are under more pressure than ever – not only to follow an editorial line but in terms of time. They barely have time to do their job quite apart from educating themselves on the ins and outs of unions.  With less industrial correspondents employed to provide the industry’s expertise the task is getting more difficult. But as the cuts bite the importance of updating the image of unions is more pressing than ever.

• Tonight, Unions21 will hold an event to kick off their work in this area which will report to the ‘A New Generation, What the Public Want from Unions and How We Rise to the Challenge’ conference next March.

19 Responses to “It’s the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions”

  1. David 2

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  2. Dan Whittle

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  3. Unions 21

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  4. UCU

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  5. POA Moorland

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  6. Rick Coyle

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's

  7. Jacob Richardson

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  8. Max Freedman

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle <good article Dan

  9. Little Richardjohn

    As far as I can remember, no mainstream newspaper (except on very rare occasions The Mirror) have ever supported any strike. In fact, they have always made the case that the action was unjustifiable, every time.
    If the media are to be believed, the workers are therefore always wrong, and so is strike action, all the time. Not only do those closest to the dispute know their business least, but striking is also morally and socially destructive. ‘Holding the Public to Ransom’.
    Isn’t this just a de-facto argument in favour of bonded labour? A call for strikes to be made illegal?

  10. Unions 21

    RT @rickcoyle99: RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's

  11. Fredrik Walloe

    RT @leftfootfwd: 92% of unionists see media as biased – say press are the dinosaurs, not us. //bit.ly/e6q9N0

  12. Kate Summerside

    RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's @DanWhittle

  13. Lil

    RT @leftfootfwd: It’s the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions //bit.ly/e6q9N0

  14. Jerry DeQuetteville

    RT @rickcoyle99: RT @leftfootfwd: It's the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions: //bit.ly/gTyzdv by @Unions21's

  15. pontaprint

    strike action is always wrong. if you don’t like your job then leave.

    striking should be legal, but so should sacking them.

  16. Simon

    James O’Brien’s coverage of the LFB dispute has been pretty good, but he stands out from the rest.

    I don’t think journalists will get much sympathy at the claim that their jobs are tough. Perhaps they need a better union?

  17. Kevin Richards

    RT @leftfootfwd: It’s the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions //bit.ly/e6q9N0 – true journalism is a dying profession!

  18. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: It’s the press who are the dinosaurs, not us, say unions //bit.ly/e6q9N0

  19. ad

    The purpose of striking is to hurt other people, in order to improve your own negotiating position, and thereby benefit yourselves.

    This may be a sensible tactic, but it is remarkably optimistic to expect it to make you popular with the people you are hurting.

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