Reputation Survey: Public Sector Strikes - Unions losing strike debate

The public has more sympathy with unions than the Government over public sector cuts, but the majority is still against the proposed strikes on 30 November.

OnePoll: the public's view of public sector strikes
OnePoll: the public's view of public sector strikes

Unions are outperforming the Government in the media as their row over public sector cuts and pension reform intensifies, but the public is not convinced striking is the answer, according to the latest PRWeek/OnePoll survey.

On 30 November the main public sector unions, including Unison, are set to strike over changes to their pensions. This comes amid a wave of industrial action over cuts to public sector budgets.

When asked which side was coming across best in the media, 18 per cent said the unions, compared with 14 per cent who were impressed with the Government's display. The survey shows the unions have successfully conveyed their core messages, with 59 per cent saying they understood the unions' reasons for strike action.

But the public is still far from convinced that industrial action is the best way to settle the dispute.

Just 24 per cent of those surveyed backed the proposed day of action on 30 November, compared with 46 per cent who said they did not support the move.

In addition, 42 per cent believed public sector workers still did not have a legitimate reason to strike over pension changes, compared with 30 per cent who said they did. Perhaps a key reason for this is the perception that public sector workers are better off than those in the private sector.

Of those surveyed, 60 per cent believed public sector workers already had better pension deals than those in the private sector.

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll


Ben Furner, Founder, Furner Communications

Who doesn't know committed teachers or nurses or social workers who are struggling with cuts in the workplace? While sympathetic, most of us are feeling the pinch and also have retirement provision at the front of our minds.

The Government's challenge remains translating the words 'we're all in this together' into something meaningful for the public - a tough job when MPs, for example, have just about the best pension provision in the country.

Unions, in the meantime, will struggle to convince us that public sector pensions aren't good enough when most private sector workers get even less, or nothing at all.

The findings show neither side is landing killer blows. Perhaps the PR challenge for the unions is to carry on with their clear messaging while looking at creative alternatives to industrial action, something the general public finds unpalatable? Strikes, although understandable to many, could be the route to losing the sympathy they currently have.


Lack of support

52% of survey respondents said they did not support strikes in general

Not legitimate

42% did not think public sector workers had a legitimate reason to go on strike

Public vs private

41% said public sector workers and private sector workers had suffered equally as a result of the recession

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