By Dan Whittle
A Unions21 poll of 100 trade unionists reveals deep frustration in the movement over perceived bias in the media.
88% believe the media is strongly or very strongly biased against unions. 90% think this is getting worse.
Lay reps and officials who have worked hard to support a business through the recession or had good results for their members from negotiations feel they never get a look-in. And when there is a dispute, there’s minimal coverage of the issues leading up to it.
As one survey comment put it: “When is the last time an employer was blamed for causing any type of industrial dispute?”
The survey shows that the majority think even the Independent presents a biased view, and the Guardian is not far behind (43.7% negative, 19% neutral). Only the Mirror is identified as clearly backing unions in their coverage (60% positive).
In popular culture the positive work of unions, for example in helping in individual cases, is ignored; few films, magazines, radio or TV programmes (such as soaps) even mention them. That is why “Made in Dagenham” was such an eye opener for many young people.
One survey participant commented: “The perception has changed from a view that unions are too powerful and need to be curbed to old fashioned and irrelevant.” Unions21′s previous research has shown a need for the image of unions to be updated, with a third of workers perceiving them as out-of-date, despite 6m members and continuous innovation in their organisation and campaigns.
There was disagreement between participants on whether the cause of the bias was imposed on journalists, or due to their lack of knowledge. And there were suggestions that unions could do more to get their message across by ‘fitting the union goal within a wider context’, ‘investing in press offices and media operations properly’ and ‘taking every opportunity to explain the democratic purpose and structure of unions’.
Certainly, as the cuts bite unions will have more time in the spotlight, it’s in the interest of fairness that their story is told with greater accuracy.
More survey results at here.