Introduction to the dispute

Rupert Murdoch, owner of four of Britain’s leading newspapers The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times, plotted to move production from central London’s Fleet Street to a secretly equipped and heavily guarded plant at Wapping, in east London’s old docklands area

This led to a strike by all print unions at Murdoch’s papers that were fighting to save thousands of jobs and the basic rights of workers to organise in defence of their conditions. The momentous year-long industrial dispute began on 24th January 1986. Five and a half thousand men and women were sacked immediately, many suffering long-term consequences. Journalists, electricians, transport workers, local government workers, academics and others were also caught up in the dispute in London and at the new smaller plant in Kinning Park, Glasgow.

During the dispute clashes between the Metropolitan Police and strikers and the use of controversial new industrial relations laws designed to shackle the unions’ traditional freedoms, led to other newspapers rapidly enforcing changes in technology and industrial relations at their own titles. The Wapping dispute had international ramifications for Murdoch’s burgeoning press and broadcasting empire in the United States and around the world.  It also heralded a newspaper production revolution bringing to an end centuries of tradition in one of London’s last manufacturing industries.

Within a few years every major newspaper and news organisation had left Fleet Street.It all took place during a turbulent period in Britain’s post-war history as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher presided over economic, political and social upheaval.