Sometimes there seems to be nothing more hated than a Union, which is why it’s great that this paper showed them so much love last week.

Trade unions have existed throughout history, but the modern version came into being in the late 19th Century.

Ever since then, they have been a constant target of criticism from right-wing elements of the media.

Even one of the most famous Hollywood films of the 1950s was an attack on Unions, with the gloves completely off.

Everyone of a certain age must have seen the 1954 classic, ‘On The Waterfront’, directed by Elia Kazan.

In that story, Marlon Brando plays an ex-boxer caught up in a story of corrupt Union bosses.

He uses one great line that every one of us can identify with: “I coulda been a contender, I coulda bin somebody.”

But he never made it as a boxing champion because of his corrupt Union boss brother, Charley.

That big, bad, older brother in the Unions made him take a dive in the biggest boxing match of his life.

And that same shady character, Charley, was in the pay of the gangland criminals who controlled the docks.

The message was clear. The Unions were bad. Not to be trusted.

Infested with shady characters just the same as today’s English media portrayals of people like Eddie Dempsey and Mick Lynch.

Papers like The Daily Mail and The Daily Express portray such Union representatives as absolute monsters.

Imagine the sheer villainy of demanding equitable pay and proper working conditions!

Such characters should be locked up in The Tower of London alongside Jeremy Corbyn, Gary Lineker and Paddington Bear!

(If you’re wondering why the wee Peruvian lad is there, he came to England without a visa.)

But seriously, some sections of the British press absolutely vilify Unions.

They’re on the same rung of the ladder – or even a few bars below – the likes of Meghan Markle, Palestine and Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott.

And why, like those others, do they get such a blackening of their name?

Maybe it’s because they represent an uncomfortable truth. They remind those in power of the danger that comes from majorities rising up in a world that’s so tightly controlled by powerful minorities.

When workers band together as a community, they become a threat to those who seek to exploit their labour. Bad bosses try to keep their workforce divided, competing individually against one another.

That, of course, doesn’t work in wee companies in places like Fermanagh, where everyone knows one another.

If you’ve ever chatted to a man (or woman) that runs a company here, they’ll always tell you that it’s vitally important to keep your team happy.

Keep your workers on your side, treat them well, and they’ll be far more productive.

It’s strange then that it’s the government who’ve been most guilty of forgetting this, in their treatment of public sector workers.

And in Fermanagh and other parts of Northern Ireland, that has a huge societal impact.

That’s because so many people here, unlike in heavily privatised England, are employed in the public sector.

Whether they’re bus drivers, firemen, civil servants, teachers or nurses, there’s a common interest in standing up together as one.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s another unspoken element to all of this.

Northern Ireland and Scotland remain very much the heartlands of unionisation on these islands.

Just take a look at how many leaders of Unions in England are of Irish or Scottish origin, like Mick Lynch.

It’d be quite a coup then for the government to break the spirit of unionisation here in Northern Ireland. The fact that there’s no governance coming out of Stormont makes that easier.

So – is it possible that the DUP are playing games beyond just not wanting to play second fiddle to Sinn Féin? Are the DUP actively conspiring in a bigger game to smash the public sector?

Personally, I think they’re not doing that consciously, but their actions are certainly contributing to the challenges that Unions face.

And that’s sad, because if there’s anything that unites both sides of the political divide here, it’s the desire to have proper public services.

There surely can be nobody alive who would choose to die in an underfunded hospital rather than see Stormont up and running.

Or anybody who thinks that our teachers and civil servants shouldn’t be listened to when they say they need better pay, just to survive.

I have been a member of the UCU (University and College Union) for about two decades now and have seen how battles have been fought and won in the higher education sector.

There recently, after a very long fight, we got some of our pension rights restored.

Basically, university bosses wanted to use billions of pounds in our pension pots in order to protect the institutions from a rainy day, whatever that means.

All the while, senior management in most of Britain’s top universities are now on Prime Ministerial salaries x 3.

The gap in pay between people at the top and ordinary workers is now both staggering and absurd. It’s actually revolting, which is why it’s little surprise that revolutions are starting to happen in the streets.

The media in England try to make this look like a bad thing. I’m glad that this paper steers well clear of those tactics and fights on the side of the people. Fights on the side of the readers.

Unions are a force for good in the public sector. The UCU, though not always perfect, has done a great deal of good for my sector. And hopefully the various Unions in everyone else’s will achieve the same.

Finally, to end on a funny note, I also met my wife through a Union! (The Students’ Union in the university where I used to work.)

She was one of the managers there when I went in one night to meet a group of international students just after they’d finished for the academic year.

Being students, they didn’t turn up on time, so I posed a question to her that became immortalised as my chat-up line. I asked her: “Have you seen any Nigerian students in here tonight?”

That was the first step towards our eventual union. Of course, the one thing I didn’t tell her was that I’d been using that line in The Forest Inn in Brookeborough for years.

But let’s just keep that quiet amongst ourselves, and keep that Union as intact as the public sector pay struggle, which remains unbroken.

Paul Breen is @CharltonMen on Twitter/X.