Monday, 24 January 2011

Wapping commemorations as NUJ discusses widening its remit

Twenty-five years ago today was the start of Wapping dispute - when Rupert Muroch sacked 5,000 workers from News International overnight.
Before this setback - and the Conservative anti-union laws that helped it happen - the print unons were incredibly strong
They had pre-entry closed shops and recruitment was often done via the union branch rather than via the employer.
Organisation in the sector is now much weaker and all of the old print unions are now a sector of Unite.
Two events have been organised to commemorate the anniversay.
A number of leading trade union speakers will address the a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday January 25) from 7pm to 9pm) at St Bride’s Institute, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ.
Later this year a multimedia exhibition will offer dramatic images and accounts of the dispute. It will open on Mayday at the Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU.
More information about the dispute and the events can be found at the websites of the organisers - the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Unite.
In response to the weakness of union organisation in some media companies this year's NUJ delegate conference will discuss a resolution which would widen its rules to allow the recruitment of printers and other newspaper workers traditionally in Unite.
Motion 127 on the preliminary agenda says "This Delegate Meeting believes that, in the context of the mass redundancies in the industry and the consequent decline in membership, that the union’s membership restrictions limit potential recruitment and our industrial strength.
"DM notes that the rules can create unnecessary divisions in the workplace whereby, for example, support or technical staff must join another union or remain unrepresented. This DM believes that the NUJ should become the union for mediaworkers and open membership up to all working in the media who wish to join.
"DM therefore instructs the NEC to amend the rules to give effect to the principle that anyone working for a media company or in the media departments of other companies should qualify for membership, regardless of their role.
"DM instructs the NEC to seek meetings with relevant other unions in the media sector to seek to ensure that this does not bring us into dispute with them."
The motion is proposed by the NUJ's national executive council.
It is not certain to be passed by the delegate conference.


  1. Wouldn't it contravene the Bridlington Agreement?

  2. The "refuseniks" who stood firm in the face of a co-ordinated ploy by Murdoch, Thatcher and the police, to force the NUJ and print unions to accept flexible working condition at the new-electronical wapping plant.

    Any-one transfering to this plant would have to accept a no-strike clause and an end to closed shops.

    5,000 sacked for protecting their right to the TUPE and their common negotiated terms.

    Thatcher, gave Murdoch all the help he needed and even introduced a de-recognition clause for trade unions.

    Loads of question marks hang over the EETPU.

    I hope those meetings do expose just how savage and co-ordinated those moves had been by a callous conservative government.

  3. The Bridlington Agreement isn't in force anymore as the super unions like Unite and Unison don't have have sectoral divisions like before. Secondly, this is about changing the NUJ rulebook to make it possible to do something, it doesn't mean that it will happen everywhere. Finally, the primary purpose of this proposed change is not to poach other unions' members - which the Bridlington Agreement sought to prevent - but to recruit people working in the media who are members of no unions, something that happens a lot in small workplaces like local newspapers.

  4. I expect there will be some opposition from the purists who like to pretend journalism is a profession so separate from anything else that only pure journalists should be allowed in. It's perfectly possible to have a union which defends and understands the nature of the journalism trade while also representing workers across the whole range of trades that make up the media industry. I'd go so far as to say it's essential we do. The changing definition of what makes a journalist, the changing nature of the job and the difficulty we've long had in recruiting across the various subsets of trade skills for years all make a compelling case for change.