Trade unions don't 'hold us to ransom', they struggle for better pay and working conditions
The Times newspaper today reports that Unite the union ‘holds Labour to ransom’ over the party leadership contest.
Aside from being part of the Tory press’s campaign to push Labour to the right (even the Sun last week praised signals the party was moving towards a more conservative approach) it also chimes with the media’s anti-union bias, which is present in all stories about employer-employee disputes.
It’s important to bear this in mind as the government’s ‘reforms’ of the right to strike are hammered out and argued over in the coming weeks.
The ‘holding to ransom’ image this morning is identical to how National Rail described planned train strikes by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive, said:
“This strike is deliberately timed to cause maximum disruption to families trying to enjoy the half-term break and millions more returning to work after the bank holiday.
I find it deplorable that the RMT can hold the travelling public to ransom in this way. […]
It cannot be right that the unions can hold the country to ransom in this way.”
The idea here, echoed by the press in all stories about unions, is that they have the power to disrupt ‘the public’ (or rather, disrupt the collection of revenue from passengers), and do so purely for money – the word ‘ransom’ making it sound like this money is undeserved.
The Times’s editorial today even says unions are a thing of the past, adding: ‘Trade unionism is a minority cause.’
In fact members of unions are members of the public, and the only power they have is to refuse to work. Collective bargaining is a fundamental right, and one that most people actually recognise and are sympathetic about – everyone understands the struggle for better pay and working conditions.
Except of course for the bosses who would rather have no ‘disruption’ to business as usual.
Workers’ rights is part of the essence of left-wing progressive politics. The uniform bias against organised labour in the media in its language and how the story is presented is one of the most gross and blatant – but overlooked – example of right-wing bias in the media.
In the name of ‘the public’ the papers actually do the work of the bosses.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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