Thursday, 14 July 2011

Remember Wapping for its persistent and unrelenting attack on workers.

An article which I read on the Counterfire website, bought it all back home to me and, what News International Corporation, is really all about. Lindsey German, put into positivist prospective the life work of media mongrel (mogul's) Rupert Murdoch. Lindsey, reminds us that 25 years ago Wapping was the scene and  backdrop where overnight Murdoch, moved his newspaper groups operations sacking over 5,5000 of his workers in the process.

The Wapping dispute took place during a period of persistent and unrelenting attack on workers, unions and communities throughout the 1980s by Margret Thatcher and her admires who attempted to murder for all time the democratic organisations of working people, and the Wapping dispute developed in the print industry where for some time the owners and bosses had been trying to undermine jobs, conditions and intensifying the concentration of the press and media ownership into fewer hands.

The resulting dispute at Wapping lasted for almost a year and changed the face of the media industry for ever and the bitterness unleashed during the dispute was fuelled by the deception Murdoch used in the run-up to the move. The new plant was said to be for a new evening paper. But it became clear that the plan was to move the existing titles there all along. And a rogue union had been enlisted to help. 

Eric Hammond's electricians union the EETPU had held secret talks with Murdoch and offered to supply a workforce to run the new plant. These talks were in progress even while the print unions negotiated with Murdoch over using the advanced technology at the new plant.

Safe in the knowledge that he had a replacement workforce at the ready, Murdoch was happy to let the print unions vote to strike on 21 January 1986. He made his move and at the same time also exploited the bad blood that sadly existed between some sections of the print and editorial workforce.

Murdoch fan-danced up Stories of 'Spanish practices' which he ensured were among the print workforce embodied and rife, resulting in a resentment among some journalists that the printers controlled the distribution of the work they produced. Most went to work at the new plant, convinced they were now at the top of the food chain. However some 100 did not.

Now remembering Wapping brings back many memory's to me personally, and I do suppose for many others who were about and involved in the dispute either as a print-worker or local resident. I fell into the latter category and was also a member of both the then Tower Hamlets Trades Council and a delegate to the Greater London Association of Trades Councils. So right from the beginning I was involved in the dispute  becoming a founding member of Tower Hamlets Print Workers Support Group, which became very active on the picket line and organising support within the community, we even organised our own march around the streets of Wapping, and I well remember hundreds of us marching around the streets in the dead of the night singing ‘when you walk through a storm’, it was great and something that will be forever etched, cut and impressed into a surface of my memory until the I die.

I would like just to record and recall on this my blog, some of the interesting people that I met and become good friends with during that most eventful year. I met local resident and very active support group member Lee Hurst,  perhaps best known as a panellist on the comedy sports quiz They Think It's All Over, where he was a regular from 1995 to 1998. And then there was the brother of Liam Brady, footballer (who won 72 caps for the Republic of Ireland and so I am told) and his wife who were active members of the group. It’s in disputes that I suppose you really do find-out who your friends and comrades truly are then. I have mentioned on this blog before now, that one Charles Wheelan was also a member of the local trades council, that’s of course before he became political director of Unite and rose to prominence as spokesman for Gordon Brown. And the less said about the latters performance yesterday in the commons the better, but the point I wish to make is that his spokesman Wheelan never gave support.    

Just one other thing I would like to recall and that’s many residents were in fact targeted and arrested during the course of the dispute at Wapping. I myself was arrested three times, twice for obstruction of the highway and fined, and once for misappropriating hundreds of copy's of the Sun newspaper from outside Mile-End Tube Station. I was eventually arrested along with my accomplice and sent to trail at Southwark Crown Court, and I am very pleased to say that after a week we were both acquitted, maybe sometime I will give you more details of that trail and the circumstances that led up to it, what I do remember is that the support group were very supportive and people like Lee Hurst came often to Court.

Well I will end this post with what I posted yesterday on the excellent Conterfire website: events have helped change the world we now live in, but it is never over the fight, we've taken some knocks and bad blows over the years since both the Miners Strike and Wapping. But most recently a new generation has stood on the line and are now saying enough is a enough, first those magnificent students and now public sector workers. The tide can now turn if we all stand together and not waste thoughtlessly a single day in the class struggle to come!"

1 comment:

Pyles Husain said...

Though I wasn't there myself (being too young) I agree and have mentioned Wapping in passing on my blog here

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