The Wapping Dispute

In numbers

The 1986 Wapping dispute between Rupert Murdoch’s News International and the newspaper unions was one of the most controversial in British industrial history.

At its heart, the dispute was about new developments in newspaper printing and production. But the dispute gave licence to bad bosses to dismiss whole workforces with impunity. The Wapping dispute is remembered as a textbook example of how not to introduce new technology to a workplace.

4 – publications at the heart of the Wapping Dispute: The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World.  

1913 – the year some of Fleet Street’s ‘hot metal’, labour-intensive printing presses dated back to.

90 – the percentage of printers who would be put out of work by the new printing technology Murdoch wanted to introduce.

Image of the protest
The wapping dispute demonstration

2 – miles from Fleet Street to Wapping, where Rupert Murdoch secretly set up a new printing plant. Its strong police presence and miles of barbed wire led to it becoming dubbed ‘Fortress Wapping’.

5,500 – copytakers, compositors, linotype operators, machine room personnel, publishing room employees, clerical staff and journalists who came out on strike on 24 January 1986. All were effectively sacked by Murdoch’s News International.

670 – new printers employed at Wapping to do the job of 6,800 people at Fleet Street.

1,262 – arrests at Wapping. The police armed with riot shields were heavy handed and aggressive with strikers and local residents.  Mounted police were brought in to break up the crowds.

54 – weeks the unions held out. The strike ended in defeat on 5 February 1987.