Union issues workplace safety alert after 7 July - PublicAffairs

Client: Amicus PR team: The Arnold Group Timescale: August 2005 Budget: Under £20,000

Manufacturing, trade and skilled persons' union Amicus believed the 7 July terrorist attacks in London raised important questions surrounding employee safety and whether firms were prepared for such events. The Arnold Group was hired to help develop a survey of employers' attitudes to workplace safety by linking research with stories about 7 July.

Objectives

To raise Amicus's profile as a responsible voice on workplace issues among media, politicians and business, both in the UK and globally.

Strategy and Plan

The news hook for all media was the results of the survey. These offered appealing headlines, including the discovery that a quarter of workplaces had never rehearsed an emergency procedure involving rescue services and staff. It also found that three quarters of at-work health and safety committees had not met to discuss the impact of terrorism since 7 July.

The Arnold Group drafted a press release outlining the main findings, while union representatives were made available for interview. Although broadcast interviews were pre-recorded, the Arnold team faced a major challenge when two firms approached by Amicus for location filming refused to allow TV cameras in - ironically, for security reasons. A number of other companies did not want filming to take place, for fear of being perceived as a 'worst offender' in safety.

To overcome this, the agency enlisted the help of the British Transport Police and Network Rail to allow TV crews to film at Liverpool Street station in London. Another challenge was journalist cynicism at using terrorism to highlight workplace health and safety issues, with some accusing Amicus of being melodramatic. The Arnold Group countered this by arguing that after 7/7, police said another attack was a matter of 'when', not 'if'.

Trade press, radio, TV and local and national newspapers were targeted.

Measurement and Evaluation

The story was covered in around 20 regional and national publications including Metro and the Edinburgh Evening News. The latter ran the headline 'Union delivers wake-up call to firms over London blasts'. Radio coverage included Star FM in Slough and BBC London radio, which interviewed Amicus London regional secretary Jennie Bremner. The story also featured on BBC Breakfast.

Global media attention on terrorism resulted in the story running on 80 US radio stations. The Arnold Group's news release was also used on around 20 international stations outside the US, including Radio New Zealand.

Results

Amicus officers claim a number of employers have mentioned the coverage to them. At the recent TUC conference in Brighton, an aide to employment minister Gerry Sutcliffe complimented Amicus general-secretary Derek Simpson on making health and safety newsworthy.

A security firm has sought details of the survey from Amicus to use to target firms, while David Flemming, national officer at Amicus, has spoken on the subject in the US media since the research was released.

The Morning Star reporter Karl Stewart says: 'It was a good survey, involving a lot of businesses with some interesting results. I had no problems getting the information I needed from the agency.'

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