Traitors at the gate

The full extent of the Wapping conspiracy emerged after the strike had begun and during the course of the dispute.

Murdoch’s pretence that the company wanted to launch a new newspaper to justify new working conditions proved to be a complete sham. The London Post never materialised.

In February 1986 a letter from Farrer’s, News International’s solicitors, was discovered and published by the Morning Star.  It advised Murdoch on how to dismiss his workforce by provoking a strike and by timing it to “catch as many employees in the net as possible”. 

Documents disclosed by News International during court hearings revealed the six shadow companies that NI had set up during 1985. When the strike prompted dismissal of existing staff, all four national newspapers were transferred to Wapping overnight to be produced by a new EETPU-supplied workforce employed by the shadow companies. The EETPU also helped the company to by-pass the print unions by the supply of workers to the new plant at Kinning Park in Glasgow.

Murdoch had plotted with union-busting consultants, and found a trade union that would help him.  In her book The End of the Street, published in late 1986 before the strike ended, former Sunday Times journalist Linda Melvern described the vast clandestine operation through Murdoch and his team to ship and install at Wapping all the machinery and computer kit he needed, with the active participation of the EETPU.  

Evidence of this treachery, always denied by the EETPU, was presented to the TUC during a lengthy procedure that heard complaints lodged by SOGAT, NGA, AUEW and NUJ. While the TUC failed to expel the EETPU for its connivance with Murdoch, the union was thrown out a year later for negotiating single-union deals elsewhere. Despite the denials Eric Hammond, the EETPU general secretary, boasted of his extensive collaboration with Rupert Murdoch in his autobiography Maverick published in 1992 well after the dispute had ended.