Pay Revelations Undermine Public Sector Comms Strategy

The TUC conference is in town, enclosed in the Manchester Central bubble (left). The Labour party will be here on Sept 26-30, the LibDems have got Liverpool (Sept 18-22), the Conservatives in Birmingham (Oct 3-6). I’m sure it must be good for hotel business, though I wonder if the entertaining is as lavish given the scrutiny of expenses and general air of belt-tightening. The takings at Obsessions may provide a decent barometer.

One purpose of the Conference Season (as a kid, this time of year was Conkers or Harvest Festival), is to feed the media with your key messages; spokesman are groomed, sound bites prepared, reports issued, all against a backdrop of happy-clappy delegates. For once, you control the environment.

In this respect, I’m not convinced the TUC has had a good week. Mind, there can’t be many good weeks when you’re battling against an overwhelming flood of negative press.

The lead story in this morning’s Daily Telegraph claims public sector workers earned an average of £74 a week more than those in the private sector, the language is of generous pay-and-perks deals. “Why should their higher salaries be paid for by waitresses and hairdressers?” goes one quote. “An attack on public sector pay is not an attack on the poor but the privileged.”

The story is timed to contrast with the TUC’s talk of strikes and civil disobedience, making the TUC seem greedy and out of touch.

Tough times for the TUC’s communications team, tough times for all public sector comms teams – particularly as comms budgets are being slashed. There is already a perception that the private sector works harder, and is more ruthless in getting rid of staff. This was the trade-off for better pay prospects. If the pay argument goes, what’s left?

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