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Chapter 11 -Communications and Campaigns

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GENERAL COUNCIL REPORT

Chapter 11

Communications and Campaigns

Introduction

The TUC 's commitment, made at the time of the 1994 relaunch, to become a high profile organisation which campaigns successfully for trade union aims and values is reflected throughout this Report. This chapter deals with campaigning mechanisms used by the TUC in the year under review.

A febrile pre-election atmosphere made progress particularly hard in the period up to May as the then Government sought to denigrate trade unions at every opportunity - though, as it turned out, to little effect. Following the election the emphasis is now on dialogue and persuasion as ministers, MPs and others look to the TUC for a reasoned case and well argued briefing. We aim to put our message across to opinion formers, to the media, employers' organisations and the public. Considerable emphasis is also placed on providing information and advice to unions and their members.

(start box) The aims of the TUC's communications strategy is threefold:

  • to consolidate the operation of the TUC's Campaigns and Communications Department which was formed as part of the 1994 relaunch, including: media relations, publications, events management, income from commercial exhibitions, political lobbying and opinion research
  • to try new methods of reaching new audiences
  • to develop further our working links with affiliates (End box)

    11.1 Communications in operation

    Media relations

    Coverage of the TUC activities continued to increase, with references to the TUC in a wide range of publications and programmes dealing with specific topics such as business, consumer affairs, personal finance, and those targeted at women. Efforts

    to target the regional media more directly with local stories and statistics continued to pay off through much more press and radio coverage. The campaigns and communications department has also continued to work closely with industrial correspondents.

    Throughout the year the TUC has organised news conferences, events and photo opportunities, and contributed letters and articles to national newspapers and specialist publications. Considerable coverage was obtained for a number of reports released between Christmas and New Year when there are usually few other news stories.

    The employee rights campaign, reported in chapter 1, created a lot of coverage in the run up to the General Election campaign. The unprecedented part-time workers agreement reached between the social partners at European level, reported in chapters 4 and 5 provided an opportunity for joint working with the CBI's press office. A TUC background briefing for journalists on the agreement also created a lot of media interest and resulted in positive coverage.

    As reported in chapter 5, a hotline for people suffering racial harassment at work was launched with the help of EastEnders star Howard Anthony and TV presenter Brenda Emmanus. This received national and regional coverage and was a good example of developing working relationships with local press and radio. The hotline launch, combined with the second Respect Festival, ensured good profiling for the TUC's anti-racism campaign in the Black and ethnic media too.

    The programme of training TUC policy officers in broadcasting techniques and news value skills has continued as has the programme of regular seminars on professional issues for union communications specialists.

    Publications

    The TUC has published some 100 titles this year, ranging from media reports to 'glossy' information packs and leaflets. Careful targeting has meant opinion formers, as well as TUC unions, have continued to receive key policy statements and analytical reports via our public affairs mailing list. A wide range of publications, including practical guides, binders, folders and campaign packs, have been made available to affiliates.

    Key publications have included the TUC Directory, Partners for Progress, a revised edition of Hazards at Work, the overnight Budget Analysis, a brochure for the respect festival and the Congress Guide.

    The project to reshape the design and in-house production of TUC materials is now complete. This took advantage of the developments in personal computer capabilities. The new design system, with the addition of appropriate print-on- demand technology, is now on stream.

    Conferences and events

    The TUC has staged over twenty national events this year, ranging from the GCHQ rallies in Cheltenham to the "Respect" festival, and including the Women's, Black Workers' and Trades Union Councils' Conferences; and in scale from annual Congress to a symposium for Professional and Managerial Staffs.

    Advice and assistance with events has also been provided to a number of unions and organisations. A network of union staff and officers who are responsible for conference and event organisation in affiliates is also being developed.

    Commercial exhibitions

    A total of 83 exhibition stands were sold for the 1996 Congress Exhibition and this produced the highest income towards the cost of Congress since the commercial exhibition was first held in 1987.

    Regular small exhibitions were also staged at the TUC Women's Conference and TUC Black Workers Conference and various smaller exhibitions were held at other Conferences throughout the year.

    TUC Exhibition Stand

    In 1996 the TUC took exhibition space at the annual conferences of the Labour Party, CBI and, for the first time, at the Liberal Democrats Conference. The stand was well received at all these conferences. In addition exhibition space was taken at the conferences of the Institute of Personnel and Development, USDAW, CWU, UNISON, GMB, MSF, and at the TEC'97 Conference.

    Parliamentary work

    The TUC has continued to lobby across the political spectrum in both Houses of Parliament for TUC policies and objectives.

    The General Secretary and other senior TUC officers have maintained a comprehensive programme of political contacts. The General Secretary again visited both the Labour and Liberal Democrat conferences, and a number of events have been arranged where leading politicians and senior trade unionists have been able to exchange views. These included a reception at Congress House for newly elected MPs following the general election and the TUC's now traditional Summer Party in July which MPs from all parties attended. The General Secretary also contributes a regular column to the House Magazine, the most widely read magazine at Westminster.

    During the past year there have been two Queen's speeches and two budgets. Comprehensive briefing packs were sent to all MPs in advance of each.

    The issue that concerned the TUC most in the pre-election period were the 1996 Green Paper proposals to impose further limits on the ability of trade unions to represent their members effectively. A copy of this document was leaked to the TUC which enabled us to circulate MPs and the media with a detailed briefing and, before the final version was published, to commission an opinion poll which showed that the proposals lacked support. This gave us a further opportunity to circulate MPs with more briefing.

    The TUC has continued to circulate MPs in both the old and the new parliaments with comprehensive briefing material on topical issues. The TUC is now recognised by members of all parties as a source of measured and authoritative expertise on world of work issues.

    Occasional seminars for MPs have also been arranged including a comprehensive presentation of the TUC's policy platform to the Liberal Democrat front bench, which is due to be repeated in the new parliament, and a meeting on welfare to work for MPs at the Commons.

    As part of the employee rights campaign, reported in chapter 1, all candidates from parties with policy stances close to the TUC were circulated with a personalised briefing illustrating the numbers of people likely to be affected by key employee rights issues such as the Working Time Directive. All candidates were informed of an election helpline that ran through the election campaign able to answer queries on areas of TUC expertise. The TUC has provided written and oral evidence to a number of select committees during the year.

    11.2 Developing new communications techniques

    TUC and the Internet

    During the last months of 1996 and continuing throughout 1997 the TUC has presented the benefits of internet connectivity to a number of affiliated unions, some of which already have some access but wished to develop this further, and some which so far have no internet facilities and wanted advice, guidance or just ideas on how to get started.

    The TUCnet initiative, launched at Congress 96, has been developed to include participation by a number of unions. Some have installed whole networks, E-mail systems and web access. In other cases the TUC hosts existing union web sites and has helped develop new union web sites using the Virtual Building software developed specially for the TUC.

    The TUC's own web site (http://www.tuc.org.uk) was moved shortly before Congress 96 to this new Virtual Building, a newly structured site offering external users the ability to search for information using key words across the system, and also

    enabling all TUC policy staff to "publish" directly their own reports , briefings etc into the appropriate "room" or "floor" of the Building without any technical knowledge. New features being developed for the site include the ability to subscribe to an E- mail list which will then notify the subscriber when something new is published on the web site in which they are interested. Press releases are published electronically shortly after they are available and this area of the site already has a notification list.

    In the coming year the TUC will continue to encourage and support unions in the use of technology and development of the internet as a major communications tool both within organisations and across the union movement.

    Use of video The TUC has begun to make extensive use of video in its campaigns. This year has seen the production of a video that looks at partnership in action, which was commissioned to go with the Partners for Progress statement. Due to be premiered at the 1997 Congress are videos making the case for union recognition, celebrating the restoration of union rights at GCHQ and reporting on new recruiting techniques being promoted by the New Unionism project.

    Trade Union Trends This Congress will see the launch of the fifth edition of Trade Union Trends, a unique and increasingly authoritative bi-annual survey tracking trends in the trade union movement. The survey is undertaken for the TUC by the Labour Research Department.

    Issues covered in Trade Union Trends include information on: union cases of recognition and de-recognition, ballots on industrial action, industrial tribunal cases, legal action against the union, industrial action and the union as an organisation. The March edition included an additional section on organising and recruiting within unions. The results showed unions shifting more resources to recruitment and three quarters of the responding unions reported having a national officer responsible for recruitment. A quarter of these had recruitment as their sole responsibility. The survey also revealed the greatest barrier to recruitment and organisation was the lack of a law guaranteeing recognition - the average membership in organisations currently campaigning to secure recognition stands at 54 per cent.

    The response from unions has grown with each survey although response rates vary for each section - from the legal action against unions section representing 43 per cent of TUC affiliates to the section on campaigning, recognition and de- recognition representing 83 peer cent. The TUC will continue to work with affiliates to further improve the response rate to the survey.

    11.3 Working with unions The Campaigns and Communications Department has continued to work with professional colleagues in affiliates, both informally through contact over particular

    campaigns - such as the employee rights campaign - and through occasional seminars. The most recent of these have dealt with one professional issue - the use of video news releases, and one political issue - the attitude unions should take to dealing with the new government.

    The Campaigns and Communications department is also investigating ways of using the collective buying power of trade unions to secure better access to the latest communications techniques. Under discussion at present is collective use by unions of a commercial service that delivers images and pictures to news desks and broadcasters throughout the country.

    TUC/Unity Trust press and PR awards

    This year's competition attracted a higher number of entries than 1996 with some 30 affiliated unions entering materials in the eight categories including two new categories, best scoop and best use of electronic communications. The status of the awards remain high among affiliates and success in the categories of "Best Recruitment Material" and "Best Campaign" is as hard fought as in the journal categories. Opportunities for union communications professionals to share experiences and draw on best practice are provided through the annual awards ceremony at Congress House, the exhibition of entries, and through the two publications Focus on the Winners and the more detailed Judges Comments.

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