It’s probably not hard to gather that I am a supporter of trade unions in general, but my heart sank when I saw the headlines about the TUC banning high heels in the workplace. The phrase about fiddling while Rome burns came to mind.
I should have known better. Because as it turns out, the actual story was completely the opposite of how it was presented in most of the media. The TUC wasn’t ‘trying to tell people what to wear’, it was trying to stop people being told what to wear. Some groups of workers, certain shopworkers and air hostesses to name but two, are required to wear high heels by employers.
Admittedly it still doesn’t stack up (sorry) as the biggest issue facing the labour movement, but it all seems fair enough. Most of the reaction, ranging from ridicule to despair, was based on condemnation of precisely what the unions are trying to – and I can’t avoid this word here I’m afraid – stamp out.
It all goes to show that even a seasoned cynic such as me can forget that, especially when it comes to coverage of trade unions, the major media organisations tend to misreport because of an inability or unwillingness to understand, laziness, plain old prejudice, or a mixture of the lot. Still, it does provide an interesting little set piece for my journalism courses.