Most histories of the Wapping strike talk about how Murdoch “fooled” the union leaders by saying his new plant was for a fictitious newspaper, called the London Post.
But Murdoch’s cover was blown long before—and the unions turned a blind eye.
In September 1985, Socialist Worker discovered a strange fact about shipbuilders in Southampton where there had been a strike. The dispute was over subcontracting to replace electricians who kept disappearing—to go and work in Wapping.
The Southampton office of the electricians’ union, the EEPTU, was being used to recruit printers for Murdoch’s scab plant.
Ginger Pearse, the Southampton EEPTU branch chair who had been at the forefront of fighting the right in the union, exposed the scandal in a Socialist Worker front page story.
“Men are queuing up in the area office,” he told our reporter. “It’s a recruiting centre. Over 500 people have been interviewed and recruited.”
Recruits travelled to London for a second interview, the paper reported. One of the first questions they were asked was, “Are you prepared to cross picket lines?”
“The Wapping presses can run the Sun, the News of the World and any other paper Murdoch may care to start,” Socialist Worker added.
And it finished by warning that “in three months time Murdoch will have the men and machines to break the Fleet Street unions once and for all”.
The paper ran numerous warnings about Murdoch’s plan, and the story was taken up by others.
But the union leaders sat on their hands—until it was too late.