Life as an Industrial Correspondent
Authors: The Work Foundation
Alan Jones, Industrial Correspondent, Press Association
20 January 2010
In some respects life as an industrial correspondent has changed beyond recognition over the past 20 years, but in others it’s exactly the same. When I joined the Press Association in the early 1980s, the agency had three labour reporters, and there were were enough strikes and strife to keep several general reporters busy as well.
Every newspaper had at least one labour corr and it was the top job, guaranteeing a front page story most days, usually after several hours standing outside the offices of Acas, or more likely the nearest pub.
Union leaders were almost as powerful as Government ministers and that power transferred to the reporters covering the patch. The miners strike was the beginning of the end of that power - things were never the same again. Union power waned, the Conservative Government introduced laws seen as anti-union, and the demise of the labour correspondents was well and truly under way.
Now there are just a handful of reporters covering the world of work, and fewer still in contact with trade unions on a daily basis.
I still find unions a tremendous source of stories, political as well as industrial, and am usually guaranteed a couple of good tales every day from officials or press officers at the main unions.
Last year ended with major disputes at the Royal Mail and British Airways, which dominated the headlines and kept me very busy and in demand, and this year has started in a similar fashion with more tension at BA and on the railways.
Unions will be heavily involved in the forthcoming general election, from helping to draw up Labour’s manifesto to manning phone lines and campaigning for Gordon Brown’s re-election.
And if the Conservatives win the election, unions - and labour correspondents - could be even busier.
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