Tory press takes the side of the bosses with its anti-union bias

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.

Times 18 May

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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13 Responses to “Tory press takes the side of the bosses with its anti-union bias”

  1. stevep

    Unions and other collectives are one of the bulwarks of democracy. Collectivity is the only way the vast majority of people in any society can hope to communicate and bargain with powerful, unelected, undemocratic forces such as large corporations seeking to shape society and profit from it for their own ends.
    The majority of newspapers belong to large corporations and represent their aspirations and accordingly, colour the political and social debate to suit themselves by propagandising people to adopt political views at odds with their aspirations and telling them which way to vote.
    This is the opposite of what democracy should be. True democracy in any country should mean power vested in the people. This means all people not just the privileged few and should mean real power to make decisions, at all levels, including local, regional, national and in places of work, unhindered by forces of wealth and landed interests.
    The media should be reconstructed and regulated to give a voice to everyone and favour no-one.
    We might just bequeath to future generations, a society fit to live in.

  2. Torybushhug

    ‘True democracy in any country should mean power vested in the people. This means all people not just the privileged few and should mean real power to make decisions’.
    The liberal establishment at every turn shouted down those of us concerned with mass immigration. It’s been a long hard road getting the metropolitan liberal establishment to finally wake up.
    Your ‘privileged few’ for a decade captured and defined the limits of that vital conversation, at every turn urging QT audiences to hiss at anyone that dared challenged the liberal consensus.
    Millions of working people were ignored and made to feel like small minded bigots.

  3. Gerschwin

    ‘Progressive’is how you describe yourselves, outdated 1970s Commie is how you increasingly are. I’m not bothered, I don’t care for either, they’re both redundant as far as I’m concerned but my God – do you read the rubbish you write? Sovietski Soyeuz went the same way as Michael Foot awhile back.

  4. stevep

    That`s why political parties of all colours have, up until recently, given scant regard to media reform. We have the internet now, ordinary people can freely communicate their ideas instantly, for the first time in history. We can use it intelligently to redefine the debate.

  5. Marcus_Garvey

    Having a little trouble distinguishing between communism and socialism I see; it’s a common problem experienced by those on the Right. Perhaps in your imaginary utopia of benevolent employers, Trades Unions would not be necessary, but fortunately those of us still living in the real world can see the reality of the situation. Still, you keep on doffing your cap; I’m sure that your boss fully appreciates your subservience.

  6. Gerschwin

    That’s because you assume it’s important to us to make the distinction, it’s not – one turd is much the same as any other as far as we’re concerned, whatever label one puts on it.

  7. Keith M

    Working people have benefited as a result of the struggles of workers in the past to obtain decent working conditions, wages etc. We have already seen how the nasty party has begun to make life more difficult and yet workers vote for them – talk about turkeys voting for Christmas!

  8. steroflex

    Don’t you ever listen?
    Old men like myself remember the Fred Kite mentality and the 1970s when the TUs wrecked our industry by fighting the management instead of (as in Germany) working along with it.
    We also remember the way Mrs Thatcher fought and won when the coal industry was wrecked by Arthur Scargill who also brought down the Heath government. If we had someone to speak up for coal today against Greenpeace, we might not be facing blackouts when the coal fired power stations close..
    The general public, as Mr Blair and Mr Mandelson noted do not like the Unions. Mrs Sturgeon won the election for the Conservatives.
    Mr McCluskey is really scary with the things he is saying too. How much is he accepting as his just rewards too?
    Ten years in the wilderness if you do not listen again.

  9. steroflex

    Please note that immigrants of all stripes and origins are not included in the Unions at the moment.

  10. steroflex

    If Unions were still democratic – I was in the NAS when it was democratically run – they were – excellent. they fought for me when I had an argument with management (and we won too). I wonder now, though if the slur of “Union Barons” rings true. I am not at all sure that the Union bosses have very much to do with the shop floor.

  11. Jingoistic

    DON’T LIKE UNIONS, Fine then give them back your weekends off, holiday & overtime pay,sickness benefit, safety regulations at work, the 40 hour week, pensions, child labour laws, and any other benefit the unions have given you.

  12. steroflex

    Well, actually, it has not bee the Unions who have done all that is it.
    Mainly it is the government of this country and also, let’s be fair, that of the EU, which does all that kind of thing. Otherwise it doesn’t get elected.
    Slavery – in Russia and in the British Empire – was ended by the government. In Germany, it was Bismarck who fixed up the Welfare State as it was in our country.
    Unions in UK have a terrible history actually, especially since 1945.They have been run top down, uncooperative and disruptive. Had they been cooperative and helpful as in Germany I should have been all in favour.
    I would like to remind you that I have been in a Union and that it did me nothing but good.

  13. Jingoistic

    I am in a union have been since 1959. Change will never come from above, we have had to fight every inch of the way. I do not need a union now as I am retired but, I will continue to fight for my children, grandchildren, & their children, every man & woman in the world as I am a member of planet earth.

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