A free press? Wapping, 25 years on.
On Tuesday night, 25 years to the day since media mogul Rupert Murdoch provoked action which resulted in a year-long strike that saw thousands of print workers sacked, hundreds of printers gathered to express their continuing defiance and struggle for press freedom.
A meeting, convened by the NUJ represented by Jeremy Dear, UNITE represented by national and local officials involved in the dispute, representatives of the engineers and Fleet Street electricians, and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom gathered at the Printers’ Institute in St Bride’s Lane, London.
The meeting warned of the dangers if Murdoch is allowed to take over BSkyB. The meeting events will be followed by an exhibition launched in Clerkenwell this coming 1 May.
Anne Field, one of the principal strike leaders during the News International dispute and a keynote speaker wrote the following on the historic day: “At the beginning of 1986 News International sacked everyone who stood by their rights, their jobs and their union.
“Murdoch had decided to get rid of an entire workforce by provoking a dispute over workers’ rights and dignity of trade union agreements and representation. A replacement workforce had already been recruited in secret and over 5,500 people lost their jobs overnight. This action gave the green light to other employers to tear up long standing pay and conditions agreements and frightened many workers off defending themselves.
“If anyone was in any doubt as to the Murdoch philosophy of life ‘everyone has their price’ they need look no further than the company’s offer yesterday to ‘compensate’ anyone on the receiving end of hacking – in other words buying their silence.
“The company’s influence and hold over government and media in all its forms is as malign as it is effective in choking the ability of people to voice their differing views and opinions about their jobs, terms and conditions of employment.”
Members of the NUJ will be joining other unions and student groups in Manchester on Saturday to march against the Murdoch-backed government cuts.