Kettle Crisps has succeeded in keeping out the union, despite protests on the popular Facebook website. However, the company may have lost in terms of public image, and has hired expensive public relations firm Hill & Knowlton to do some damage control.
The case has stirred a debate on internet campaigning on the pages of the Guardian. Pete Guest argues that “Facebook is not yet a medium for informed debate: by and large the groups are remarkably badly informed, populated through whimsy or a desire to make a superficial statement [...] Most users join because their mates invite everyone they know to join whatever the group du jour is, usually the one with the most amusing name”.
He adds that only a few hundred people have signed up to anti-Kettle groups, whereas ‘a frightening 155,287’ people joined a group that wants Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister.
To the extent that internet campaigns produce results in the real world, this is mainly due to them being picked up by regular media, he argues.
But David Hencke argues that unions should shed their dinssaur image and explore the possibilities to involve young people through internet campaigns. He points out that students and the newly graduated are among the most enthusiastic Facebook campaigners. Among British unions, only GMB has a Facebook group.
“The union movement should learn from what has happened at Kettle Foods. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose - and everything to gain - from going online. You might be surprised at the level of support”.
Facebook groups here and here