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PORTSIDELABOR  August 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDELABOR August 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Murdoch's axing of unions led to scandal in the media

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Wed, 3 Aug 2011 22:14:12 -0400

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Murdoch's axing of unions led to scandal in the media
By Eamonn McCann
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/eamon-mccann/murdochs-axing-of-unions-led-to-scandal-in-the-media-16028037.html

Michael Delaney (19), died after being run over by a
lorry in east London on a Saturday night in January
1987. An inquest jury found that he had been a victim of
unlawful killing. But nobody has ever been prosecuted.
Michael had been among trade unionists picketing the
News International plant at Wapping against the sacking
of more than 5,000 workers and the derecognition of
unions. The dispute lasted almost a year.

The Metropolitan Police worked in coordination with NI
executives throughout. Police attacks on the
picket-lines were a regular occurrence. Saturday nights
- when it was vital for the company to ensure that its
prize asset, the News of the World, reached the shops -
saw particularly brutal confrontations. In at least one
instance, mounted police cavalry-charged directly into
the pickets to clear a path for lorry-loads of copies of
the NotW.

Anyone wondering how the Murdochs and the Met developed
a relationship so close it eventually became scandalous
- that's how. Anyone wondering how the "newsroom
culture" which facilitated phone-hacking developed -
here's how.

Murdoch's line at the time was that the print unions had
been destroying the newspaper industry through
overstaffing, signing in "ghost workers", falsely
claiming for overtime and general skiving. Thus the need
for a midnight flit from the company's King's Cross
office to purpose-built premises at Wapping. The dodgy
activities of some print workers were of little
importance to Murdoch. What irked him was union
organisation, specifically, the print unions' ability to
defend members. Getting rid of a bolshie father or
mother of chapel (shop steward) was no easy matter. But
the myth of Murdoch saving the industry from union
malpractice has persisted.

The day the move to Wapping was announced, journalists
met in the King's Cross newsroom. 'Refusniks' argued
that journalists' rights and standards would be shredded
if they collaborated with management in destroying the
printers' organisation. Others maintained the printers
brought their problems on themselves. The key speech
came from Sunday Times editor Andrew Neill who made an
impassioned plea for journalists to save the papers. The
Wapping move was a done deal: if the journalists didn't
go along, the papers would collapse.

Mr Neill has been among those commenting on the current
debacle who have been anxious to make the point that,
say what you like about Murdoch, he did save the
newspaper industry back in the 1980s. I suppose he can
hardly say anything else.

Journalists discovered as they walked into Wapping that,
individually, they too were now on their own. One story
from the last fortnight has been of sports reporter Matt
Driscoll, sacked in 1987 while on sick leave for
depression arising from humiliation heaped on him by the
then editor Andy Coulson.

An employment tribunal heard how representatives of NI
visited him at home while he was ill in a way which
deepened his anxiety.

That would not have happened if the newsroom had been
unionised. Reporter Charles Begley has recalled being
ordered to dress up as Harry Potter for a conference at
the NotW in 2001 - the paper wanted to capitalise on the
boy wizard's commercial potential. Begley's humiliation
was excruciating.

That wouldn't have happened either in a unionised
newsroom.

Former NotW showbiz reporter and whistleblower Sean
Hoare, who died last week, described for Panorama the
pattern of bullying and the relentless demand for
exclusives no matter how they'd been obtained. He had
had nobody on the paper to turn to - which wouldn't have
been the case in a unionised workplace.

The absence of any organised expression of the distinct
interests and concerns of journalists meant management
priorities could be imposed at will. Journalists were
hired on short-term contracts, typically of a year or
six months. There was no need for any sacking procedure.
Anyone who didn't prove as malleable as the Murdochs,
Brooks and Coulsons demanded would be cast adrift when
their contract expired. The result was, as phone-hacker
Glenn Mulcaire has put it, "fear all the time"

That wouldn't have happened if the NUJ had been on hand.

The assault on the right to union representation has
been central to the development of the ethos which
generated the scandal. The reason this aspect hasn't
been front and centre in coverage is that to acknowledge
the necessity of trade unionism would be to take
discussion of the issues which arise down a path where,
even today, few want to go.



Read more:
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/
eamon-mccann/murdochs-axing-of-unions-led-to-scandal-in-
the-media-16028037.html#ixzz1U1QlsI00

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people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

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