Workers don’t have enough power in modern Britain – poll

A poll by Ipsos found considerable sympathy with striking railway workers, but the country remains divided on support for the strikes themselves.

A picket line at Shrub Hill train station in Worcestershire (David Davies/PA)
A picket line at Shrub Hill train station in Worcestershire (David Davies/PA)

Six in 10 people in Britain think workers do not have enough power, a poll has found.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos as strikes gripped the UK rail network, found 61% of British adults aged 18 to 75 thought workers had “too little” power while only 9% thought they had too much.

While the strikes have led some to criticise trade unions as too powerful, the poll found only 32% of people thought that was the case, compared with 36% who thought employers had too much power.

Ipsos also found that an overwhelming majority of people thought it was important to have trade unions in order to protect workers’ interests.

Some 85% of people told the pollster that unions were very or fairly important, including 77% of Conservative voters.

Keiran Pedley, director of politics at Ipsos, said: “Six in 10 Britons tell us workers have too little power in Britain today and a similar number sympathise with railways workers that are on strike this week.

“This suggests that there may be more public sympathy for striking workers than many assume, although how long the public are prepared to put up with the strikes themselves – and the disruption caused – remains to be seen.”

Some 62% of people polled between June 20 and 22 said they sympathised with the striking workers, while 31% said they did not.

But commuters had the largest share of the public’s sympathy, with 86% saying they sympathised with rail passengers, and only 35% of people said they supported this week’s strikes – the same proportion that opposed them.

Support for the strikes rose slightly to 41% when people were prompted with the causes and consequences of this week’s industrial action.

Mr Pedley added: “As it stands, the public are divided over whether they support or oppose the current rail strikes, with younger Britons and Labour voters more supportive and older Britons and Conservatives typically more opposed.

Time will tell how public opinion evolves on these particular strikes as the week progresses

Keiran Pedley, Ipsos

“Passengers receive the most sympathy from the public, although a majority sympathise with railway workers too. Meanwhile, there is a clear public consensus that trade unions are important in protecting workers’ rights in Britain, although they are often sceptical that past strikes have been worth the disruption caused or have been effective in achieving their aims.

“Time will tell how public opinion evolves on these particular strikes as the week progresses.”

Other polls have found slightly higher levels of support for the strikes.

A poll of more than 2,300 people by Savanta ComRes published on Tuesday showed 58% of people said the industrial action was justified.

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