The use of social media in strike situations

The title should actually be the MIS-use of social media, but that sounds too negative.

Right now the Ontario College Support Staff are on strike across the province. I’ve seen strikes happen throughout my school experience, both in highschool and college, but never have had the chance to see it from the striker’s point of view. I myself am not involved but Danielle unfortunately is. She just started the college job in May, then this happened.

From what she tells me about it, from the side of the support staff, the best I can do to help is keep informed with what the strike is about, and how both sides are feeling the pressure. Being the social media guy, I went to Twitter to keep up on the news and browse what people were saying about the strike.

Negotiation leaders not using the tools

What struck me as odd and sad at the same time was the lack of presence of both sides on Twitter, and the overwhelming number of conversations happening about without the negotiators knowing. The college ‘Council’ has zero presence that I could find on Twitter or Facebook, which leads me to believe that they have no interest in the public’s thoughts or opinions. OPESU has a Twitter account (@OPSEU ), which is only updated a few times a day, and a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since August 26.

I see these two networks as such a powerful tool both sides could use, but it’s sadly being disregarded.

The public wants to be heard

A quick search of just the terms “college” and “strike” on Twitter show a barrage of posts from students and staff, both wondering what the status is. Students are asking because they’re not getting the needed funding to continue their education:

“College strike making osap payments delayed is pissing me off. They better not make me get kicked out of the program cause I haven’t payed” – @JordanCoulsonnn

And other people are just letting their followers know how they feel:

Both parties in a labour dispute should have an obligation to at least be at the table. This is ridiculous. #OPSEU #college #strike – @LizScanlon

So the question is how hard is it to use a network that already exists, where people are obviously talking, and where you can easily post real-time messages about what is going on?

College’s lack of transparency online

To even more decrease the transparency of the colleges is the lack of ‘real’ messages from the people in charge, mainly the presidents. For example, Fanshawe College in London posts a ‘President’s Message’ in a blog format (without comments allowed) every few days during the strike. That sounds great until you read it and realize it is the same post with 75% of it’s content reused from the previous post (Sept 12, Sept 13).
There is no way to communicate online with the heads of the schools. I have not seen a Twitter account for Fanshawe’s president Howard Rundle. So why are they not using the tool that 90% of their students use in a time when a simple message could calm student’s questions?

Easy Solution

So seriously there is an easy solution here: USE THE TOOLS. If you’re not where people are talking, then messages will be skewed, people with questions will be left unanswered and blame will be put on the wrong people. Education about the strike, why no talks are being scheduled and what people can be doing to deal with the strike are great topics to talk about if you actually are there to do the talking. It’s not hard. 5 year olds have better online conversations than some of the people involved in this strike. Get educated on the tools, then jump in, because people are talking with or without you there.

When the leaders of this strike realize that real people are involved and are being hurt by this, as evident in social media conversations, then maybe it can be over with sooner rather than later.

 

 

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