The Wapping Dispute
by John Lang & Graham Dodkins
Foreword by Tony Benn
In January 1986, some 5,500 workers employed by four of Britain’s national newspapers were sacked. The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times were all owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International Limited, and the bitter industrial dispute that followed was to last 13 months.
Although generally referred to as a print workers’ dispute, many of those sacked were not printers at all, but managers, clerks, secretaries, librarians, copy typists and messengers who were members of the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT).
In the year following the dispute the authors of this book, themselves previously librarians at The Times and The Sunday Times and active participants in the strike, interviewed many of the clerical workers involved in an effort to document their experiences. Having spent more than a year recording these testimonies and transcribing the tapes onto the backs of discarded fast-food delivery menus using a portable typewriter (money was tight and paper expensive), the project was reluctantly abandoned, the victim of an acute need to earn a living.
The manuscript gathered dust in a loft until, in 2009 (with the 25th anniversary of the dispute fast approaching) unemployment, ironically, provided an opportunity to finish the job. Bad News tells the story of an ordinary group of people thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and how those circumstances affected their lives.
“What comes out in this book is the courage and determination of those who fought for their jobs and their rights against a government that was bitterly hostile to both. This is a book that should be very widely read.” Tony Benn, Foreword