Feb 2011 - News? You couldn't make it up!

01 June 2013

Members may have noticed ‘reports’ in the press last month that ASLEF members working on London Underground are going on strike on 29 April, the day of the royal wedding. That was the news. Well, I’ll let you into a secret. It was news to me as well.


The ‘story’ began when one of our representatives spoke to a journalist about Bank Holiday payments, rather irresponsibly adding that the date of the royal wedding was ‘not ruled out’. To a journalist, this was enough to merit the banner headline ‘ASLEF TO STRIKE ON ROYAL WEDDING DAY’.


Suddenly we were in the middle of a media frenzy. Literally, questions were asked in the House. The Prime Minister was quoted, the Leader of the Labour Party was grilled. Head Office was inundated with queries from news agencies from across the world, with America to the fore. Requests for interviews piled high as the less balanced members of the public bombarded us with frantic insults and obscene messages. Mayor Boris sprang to propose driverless Tube trains.


All this was despite the fact that hours after the original distortion appeared on the news wires, I had authorised an official statement which was circulated and posted on our web site saying three things quite clearly: that the question of possible industrial action on the day of the Royal Wedding had not been discussed by the union’s executive; negotiations about Bank Holiday payments were due to resume; and the newspaper story, to say the least, was ‘premature’.


That should have sorted it out. But it didn’t. The media chose to ignore the union statement. Instead they built it up. It was quite bizarre. The media usually spreads its ink demanding that we withdraw a strike threat. Suddenly they were insisting we stuck by one that we had never announced.


You couldn’t make it up. Unless you’re a journalist, that is.

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