Junior doctors in NHS England in 2016 gave public notice that they would walk out on strike as part of the long-running contract dispute (Cooper, 2016). In August 2015, members of four rail unions took part in strike action causing the entire London underground to close. London’s then-Major, Boris Johnson, urged the unions to put the latest ‘incredibly generous’ offer from management to their members. The train drivers’ leader, Mick Whelan, said, ‘Our members have ejected the latest offer from the company because they are forcing through new rosters without agreement and offer no firm commitments on work–life balance for trainers’ (Press Association, The Guardian, 2015). Despite the fact that the number of days lost to strikes is currently running at its lowest since records began in 1893, there has, unsurprisingly, been much public criticism of the strikes. Context, however, is paramount. As one senior trade union official acutely put it: ‘no strike in our country could inflict the sort of economic damage which the banks and finance houses have’ (Kenny, The Guardian, 2011, p. 30). In terms of the general public’s perception of unions, less well-known perhaps, is the joint statement by then Prime Minister David Cameron and Brendan Barber former general secretary of the TUC urging workers to vote to remain in the European Union referendum (Cameron and Barber, 2016) or the presence of union ‘Disability Champions’ and ‘Green Reps’ in workplaces.
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