Hit or Miss? Public sector workers say "enough is enough" with strike

Hundreds of thousands of public service workers across the UK took to the streets yesterday to protest over pay, pensions and cuts by the Government.

Public Sector Strike: Effective communication tool or playing into the hands of the Government?
Public Sector Strike: Effective communication tool or playing into the hands of the Government?

Disruption was reported as a result, but the number of participants, claimed by GMB and Unison unions to be more than a million, was disputed by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude who saidsaid less than 500,000 took part.

While Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady said workers were on strike to say "enough is enough", the Cabinet Office called it "irresponsible".  

How I see it

James Ford, MD, Public Sector, Health and Skills at Grayling

6,000 schools were reported to have closed in England and many other disruptions occurred as a result. 

The union communications teams generated significant amounts of pre- and post-strike media coverage, and I suspect many people unconnected to the action heard or saw something about it. Strike action naturally divides the media along party political lines: the Daily Mirror criticised the Prime Minister and The Sun said the strike was a flop. If you measure on media column inches alone, the story looked like a great success.

So job done? No.

The government communications machine seemed very well prepared. It took over what should have been the unions’ story. The unions will forever be at the mercy of a press that is largely anti-strike but there’s no excuse for catastrophic own goals like the laughing faces of the union top brass on the front page of Thursday’s Evening Standard. 

Are Francis Maude and colleagues about to cave in to union demands? Of course not. Strike action arguably strengthens the Government’s hand as it calls for more substantial transformational change in the way services are delivered. Meanwhile it is such a gift of a dividing line for the next election, the PM hijacks the whole story and announces that the Conservative manifesto will include a commitment to make future strike action harder.

Union membership has halved since 1980 and they continue to be demonised in the media. Time for a rethink?

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