Illegal and exploitative practices in the press have flourished because of union de-recognition in the 1980s, the National Union of Journalists has heard.
Delegates at NUJ Delegate Meeting (DM) in Newcastle this weekend have voted to support a motion which congratulates their General Secretary's work and performance at the Leveson Inquiry and highlights the NUJ's submission to Lord Justice Leveson which calls for robust regulation of the press by an independent body with trade union representation. The motion also calls for limits on media ownership.
John Hendy QC, the NUJ's counsel at the inquiry, addressed the DM. He said he had wanted to be able to ask Rupert Murdoch about his deal with Tony Blair in 1997. This was the so-called Wapping clause under union recognition legislation, which enabled Murdoch to block the NUJ from his papers in favour of the New International staff organisation.
Since then, landmark court judgments have enshrined the right to be a member of a trade union and the right to strike. And one consequence of the hacking scandal has been the setting up of an NUJ chapel in Wapping.
Eamonn McCann, a National Executive Committee member, said that during the move to Wapping, Margaret Thatcher's police were handed over to the Murdoch empire to attack trade unionists. This unholy relationship between Murdoch and the police has flourished ever since, he said.
John Hendy added that when Margaret Thatcher came to power, 82 per cent of workers had collective bargaining; the figure is now 30 per cent, with seven out of ten workers having their pay and conditions determined by management diktat.
He said collective bargaining was vital because it led to an increase in wages, the reduction of inequality, gave workers a voice and was a matter of justice.
The opportunity for John Hendy to quiz Rupert Murdoch during the inquiry was described as a red letter day for the NUJ by the General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet,. DM was shown a clip of the event. When Murdoch was asked about allegations of bullying within News International he said: "They always strike me as a very happy crowd."
* National Union of Journalists: www.nuj.org.uk/