Ted Grant

The Times—Workers’ unity beats scab plan

Source: Militant, no. 454 (May 4, 1979)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010

The international solidarity of German printers and workers (and Turkish workers in Germany) has foiled the plans of The Times’ management to produce a weekly international edition. Only a few thousand copies were printed at an “undisclosed location”. This arises from the dispute and lock-out at The Times London headquarters.

The millionaire Thomson Group which owns The Times and a string of provincial newspapers in Britain wanted to use The Times to break the resistance of workers to the introduction of “new technology” at the expense of rights, conditions and standards of print workers.

They want—over a period—to eliminate most type-setters’ jobs. Thus, as always under capitalism, technological progress does not lead to shorter hours and higher wages but to massive redundancies.

When the print unions and especially the National Graphical Association (NGA) refused to accept their terms, management stopped publication and dismissed the workforce—i.e. locked out the workers. But in defence of jobs, rights and living standards The Times’ printers and unions have stood firm for five months.

This attempt to print the international weekly abroad was intended as a wedge to break their resistance. They used a small type-setting firm in Darmstadt where only half the 20 employees were union members to set up the paper. For their printers The Times’ management chose a small Turkish firm in Germany which prints an extreme “right wing” i.e. fascist Turkish paper.

Hundreds of Turkish and German print workers and other workers mobilised by the German print unions picketed the plant. They demonstrated against scabbing on their British trade union brothers. So strong was the pressure that The Times’ management abandoned the attempt to print this first edition.

The NGA has been in touch with the print unions in 35 countries to ask for the “blacking” of Times’ work. All have agreed to be vigilant in case The Times makes further attempts.

Coupled with the decision of NUJ members in The Times’ chapel to reverse their previous decision, and not to work on the overseas weekly, this is a crushing answer to The Times’ management tactics.

This is an inspiring example of workers’ international unity and class solidarity in action. Such action nationally and internationally is the key to success for the struggle of the print workers.