Murdoch confirms printing is to leave Fortress Wapping

LONDON - News International has confirmed earlier reports this year that its printing operations are to leave Wapping and move to state-of-the-printing presses and production plants with investment totalling around £600m, which will result in job losses.

Parent company News Corporation said that expenditure would take place over the next four to five years at the new printing plants in Enfield north of London, Glasgow, and Knowsley, close to Liverpool.

A spokesperson for the media conglomerate, which publishes The Sun, the News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times, said that the move would not affect journalists, who will remain in London. Only production staff will be moving to the new sites.

Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International, said: "This will ensure News International maintains its leading position in the national newspaper industry. The new presses will provide colour on every page, bringing advantages to advertisers and editorial."

He said the project was long range, taking more than four years to complete and that, during this period, inevitably there will be job changes and losses as the new automated technology comes on line.

"There will be no impact on jobs for at least two years and, wherever possible, reductions will be achieved through voluntary redundancy," he said.

Print production has been at Wapping for almost 20 years since Murdoch moved his papers to the plant in 1986. The move smashed the power of the print unions in the newspaper industry and paved the way for other titles to use non-unionised plants.

The move to Wapping turned into an epic struggle between unions and management, resulting in violent protests as 6,000 trade unionists went on strike and clashed with riot police in a struggle that lasted for almost a year. The strike finally collapsed in 1987.

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