Origins of the Dispute - Part 1
News International and other newspaper companies decided to relocate to Docklands from Fleet Street because lucrative development subsidies were available. The Wapping site was bought in 1979 and the plan to move there was announced to The Sun and News of the World employees. The new plant would be for print production and distribution only: all composing room, pre-press, admin and editorial departments would remain in Bouverie Street, off Fleet Street, the headquarters site of News Group Newspapers (NGN).
It would be a massive change. Fleet Street was a huge, tight-knit community with Bouverie Street right at its heart. Ancient machinery thrashed nightly in dirty and dangerous conditions producing millions of copies of The Sun and News of the World. Massive lorries delivered tonnes of newsprint every day through narrow streets to all the newspapers. Many felt that moves were inevitable, along with much anticipated technological changes. Among them were the unions that tried to negotiate new conditions.
Murdoch acquired Times Newspapers (TNL, publishers of The Times and The Sunday Times) in 1981. In late 1984 both NGN and TNL were withdrawn from the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) national agreement. Replacement house (company/union) agreements were established some months later.
Formal negotiations with NGN chapels for the relocation to Wapping had begun in 1983 but all came to a halt in early 1985. Several chapels accepted the company’s proposals, but the management quickly backtracked. All requests for a continuation of talks and familiarisation visits to the Wapping site were refused.