Research shows FBU winning war of words

The Fire Brigades Union is winning the war of words with the Government, according to an exclusive survey by NOP for PR Week.

Sixty-five per cent of those surveyed last weekend - as the first eight-day strike over pay came to an end - said the firefighters so far were the most effective in getting their message across. This compared to just 35 per cent believing the Government was the most effective.

Proof that the FBU's messages are getting through to the public also emerged when 56 per cent said firefighters were right to strike in support of pay demands, compared to 45 per cent believing it was wrong.

Despite this, the FBU has now decided to abandon a further eight-day spell of industrial action this week and instead turn to conciliation service ACAS.

Union officials have denied this represents a backing down in its fight as another eight-day stoppage is still scheduled to take place on 16 December, should the latest round of talks fail.

If the dispute continues over the Christmas period and beyond, the survey also shows that the Government needs to do more to convince women and the young of its key messages.

While support for the firefighters is across the board in terms of gender, age and class, the survey shows those most impressed by FBU campaigning are women and 15 to 34-year-olds.

Seventy-one per cent of women said firefighters were the most effective at getting their message across, compared to 59 per cent of men.

And 76 per cent of 15 to 34-year-olds were impressed by FBU PR efforts, although this figure dwindles to 63 per cent for 35 to 54-year-olds and 57 per cent for the over-55s.

The Government stepped up its media campaign this week with the release of a report, drawn up by the Cabinet Office's emergency committee, known as Operation Cobra, that the military has met and in some cases exceeded response times during the strikes.

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