Strike out

What’s the right way to strike?

4th May 2018

We all know labour strikes can be incredibly frustrating to the public, especially when the strikers are in control of public transport.

Train services, for example, can be completely halted — along with the whole of Britain — when strikes are well-organised (although, train services are bad enough anyway, so you could argue they don’t make too much difference).

Thousands of people have their daily commutes interrupted and their daily lives inconvenienced. In many ways, this is the point of labour strikes: to pressure business owners to meet workers’ demands by making them lose money through disruption.

But there are a whole lot of different ways to strike and some are more disruptive than others.

Too often strikers in Britain and elsewhere lose support because their strikes affect the customers just as much

Bus drivers for Ryobi in Okayama, Japan, are striking this week because a new, rival bus company offers lower fares along the same bus lines and their buses are designed to look like cartoon faces. A huge advantage over Ryobi. The drivers want job security but Ryobi was not willing to guarantee this.

What makes these strikes relatively unique is that the bus drivers are still driving their routes and transporting customers but refusing to take fares in an effort to curb a public sulk and at the same time take aim Ryobi’s pockets.

At first glance, the customer might say: “Perfect, if this is socialism I can get on board!”

Too often strikers in Britain and elsewhere lose support because their strikes affect the customers just as much, sometimes more, than they do their bosses. This way, the workers put pressure on Ryobi without heavily affecting people’s journey to work.

It sounds like a cool idea, and the same technique has been used in Australia and even Cleveland in the US. So why isn’t Britain doing it?

Although the company won’t be gaining any revenue from the strikes, it also won’t be paying wages and will have had a marketing campaign which expands its market

Well, as Ryobi’s brand image remains intact, the strikes may not have the influence required to achieve job security. If customers aren’t put off by the strikes, which of course they won’t be (who would be upset about free transport?), Ryobi will only be attracting more customers in the short term.

In fact, although the company won’t be gaining any revenue from the strikes, it also won’t be paying wages and will have had a marketing campaign which expands its market.

Consider a bus company giving away free bus rides for a few days, or even a week, to attract more people to public transport. It would still have to pay its bus drivers for the service, so the experiment may not be fiscally worthwhile in the short term.

The mere fact that the bus drivers refuse fares is a huge middle finger to Ryobi

Ryobi’s striking bus drivers have moulded their strikes to exactly this concept, except Ryobi doesn’t have to pay their wages or even organise the promotion. It is all done for them, for free, by the workers.

Megurin
The rival buses from Megurin are more appealing to passengers because they’re cheaper and look like this

Those striking are working for free in order to cut a large portion of Ryobi’s revenue while maintaining support from the general public. Therefore, they may be more likely to achieve job security because the consumer will see Ryobi in a better light having travelled for free for a while. Plus, the mere fact that the bus drivers refuse fares is a huge middle finger to Ryobi.

However, the bus drivers may consider rescinding said middle finger.

Their strikes could ultimately be impotent. By continuing to drive along the usual bus routes, advertisers who plaster their message along the side of Ryobi buses will remain visible and therefore viable. Ryobi will continue to reap the benefits of their advertising contracts.

Ryobi could turn a strike into a successful marketing campaign

Ryobi has been given an opportunity to capitalise on worker strikes. If the company plays its cards right, it will be able to turn this into a resounding marketing victory

All it needs to do is lower its fares to compete with the new bus company and rely on the assumption that free bus travel gains more customers, as any normal promotion would, Ryobi could turn a strike into a successful marketing campaign.

The boost in customers from the strike could cover the cost of lowering fares. Not only would this solve the striker problem and guarantee jobs for bus drivers, it would give the company an edge over its rival’s dastardly bus faces.

4th May 2018