In addition to SOGAT and the NGA, the Transport and General Workers’ Union (now Unite) and the Union of Communication Workers ( now CWU) found themselves in court almost immediately as a consequence of the anti-union laws introduced by the Tory government forbidding sympathy or solidarity action including observing picket lines.
To make matters worse, and to the disgust of the strikers and the print unions, the TUC decided not to instruct the EETPU to forbid its members to do work normally done by members of print unions.
The TUC Congress decided later in the year to step up support for the strikers, and to instruct the EETPU to honour picket lines and stop doing print union members’ work. But the TUC General Council bowed to EEPTU General Secretary Eric Hammond’s legal threats and decided not to implement the Congress decision.
The NUJ supported the struggle, but national executive motions to instruct the journalists working at News International to walk out and join the dispute were defeated by one vote on two separate occasions. However, disciplinary proceedings were taken under rule against 500 members for working on at Wapping. Most were found guilty of acting against the interests of the union but were acquitted on appeal after launching a legal challenge in the High Court.
London Press Branch EETPU members supported the dispute throughout and regularly marched to Wapping in protest at the collusion by their national leaders with Murdoch. The 250 electricians employed at Bouverie Street and Grays Inn Road had not been instructed to report to Wapping for work and were made redundant after being given notice in July 1986.
Despite these crucial setbacks and the constant barrage of media, police and government attacks on the strikers and their unions there was widespread support among the active sections of the trade union movement. Print unions had always supported struggles in other sectors, especially mining, health and railways. Remembering the long tradition of printworkers’ involvement in anti-fascist and peace movements and other progressive campaigns, trade union activists were keen to reciprocate.
Many of the support groups were organised by local trade union branches. Trade union national conferences and local meetings in shipbuilding, mining, engineering, gas industry, construction, health, education and public services and others welcomed strikers and print union representatives to talk about the struggle and to raise money for the hardship fund. The Scottish, Wales, and all-Ireland trade union conferences urged affiliated unions to work for the boycott campaign and to attend picketing of local depots as well as the major demonstrations. These same conferences banned News International journalists from entry.