41 Arrested as 3,000 Try to Stop Delivery of Newspapers
LONDON (AP) _ Scotland Yard said police arrested 41 people among a crowd of about 3,000 fired workers and their supporters who tried to push past a police cordon today to stop delivery trucks from leaving publisher Rupert Murdoch’s printing plant.
Sixteen police officers suffered minor injuries during scuffles with the protesters, including a sergeant with a chipped kneecap, authorities said.
A statement from Scotland Yard said the arrests were made when the crowd, some hurling stones, surged forward before dawn to try to stop trucks loaded with copies of The Times and The Sun from leaving the east London plant.
However, Murdoch’s company, News International, said in a statement that the picketers failed to stop the delivery trucks.
Those arrested were charged with assaulting police, obstructing police or blocking the road, Scotland Yard said.
The British domestic news agency, Press Association, said militant leftist miners from the Kent coalfield in southeast England had joined production workers on the picket line.
About 5,000 print production workers went on strike Jan. 24. The strike, called by the two traditional printing unions, the National Graphical Association and SOGAT 82, started after negotiations on the use of new electronic technology collapsed.
On Jan. 25, Murdoch switched production from Fleet Street, London’s newspaper row, to his new plant at Wapping, east London, using members of the rightist electricians’ union to print The Times, The Sun and two weekly papers, the Sunday Times and News of the World.
He then fired the strikers, saying they had broken their contracts by walking out. The two unions, which have preserved antiquated printing methods throughout Fleet Street, charge he deliberately provoked the strike so he could fire them without compensating them for the loss of their jobs.
Murdoch’s four newspapers, including the 4-million circulation Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling daily, account for 25 percent of Britain’s newspaper production.
Australian-born Murdoch, now a U.S. citizen, owns a communications empire that includes newspapers and television stations in the United States.