CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AWARENESS; TUC’s new bid to shame fat cats

Client: TUC PR team: In-house Campaign: Overworked? Underpaid? Timescale: Three weeks up to Christmas Cost: pounds 2,000

Client: TUC

PR team: In-house

Campaign: Overworked? Underpaid?

Timescale: Three weeks up to Christmas

Cost: pounds 2,000

One issue near the top of the TUC’s campaigning agenda is employers’

exploitation of their workers. During the run-up to Christmas it decided

to launch an 0345 hotline for callers to air grievances about their


This was the first time the TUC had used a hotline of this kind and to

pilot the scheme the experiment was restricted to one region. The North

West was chosen because it is one of the hardest hit parts of the UK in

terms of long hours and low jobs growth.


A fundamental goal of the campaign was to identify bad employers in the

North West and expose them in the media. Through this exposure, the TUC

wanted to put the issues of low pay and the desire for new legislation

to protect workers’ rights under the media spotlight.


The 0345 hotline was the central plank of the campaign. It launched on

Monday 4 December and was operational for five days. Because the

campaign budget was so small the TUC arranged for volunteers from the

Service Workers Advisory & Action Project to help man the phone lines.

The TUC took out a number of advertisements in the region’s most

important newspapers and listings publications. These gave the hotline

number under the banner: ‘Overworked? Underpaid? Then try a different

kind of Christmas shopping. Shop your boss.’

PR was also used to raise awareness of the hotline, with the campaign

team arranging for spokespersons to be interviewed by the regional

media. A letter from TUC general secretary John Monks was also published

in a number of local newspapers on 5 and 6 December.

The team briefed editors, producers and reporters in the North West that

calls coming into the hotline would provide a first-rate source of

material and provided them with leads on interesting stories as these

came in.‘We were very clear that we actually wanted to feed stories back

to the media quickly,’ says TUC campaigns officer Frances O’Grady. ‘We

wanted to give journalists the chance to see that these stories stood up

and to encourage them to follow them up.’ The campaign also harnessed

the emotional impact of Christmas using the Scrooge metaphor to contrast

‘fat cat’ employers’ ability to buy lavish toys for their children while

many workers struggled to make ends meet.


During its five days in operation the hotline took 175 calls. There was

solid coverage in the North West media but, more surprisingly the

campaign captured the imagination of journalists outside the region as

well with exposure from, among others, the Observer, Guardian,

Independent on Sunday, Sky News, BBC Working Lunch, Radio 4, Radio 5,

GLR and even Radio Isle of Wight!

‘I couldn’t say that lots of employers have increased their paltry wages

to above our bargaining target of pounds 4 per hour, but it has put the

issue on the agenda,’ adds O’Grady.


Coverage beyond the North West was a real bonus but the number of calls

to hotline was a little disappointing.

‘I thought there might have been a bigger response,’ says Geoff Green,

the reporter who covered the campaign for the Manchester Evening News.

‘Possibly the pre-publicity was not as extensive as it might have been

- I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve said they would have done

something if they’d known about it.’

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