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June 4, 2009

Eric Hammond: the man who aided Murdoch’s Wapping move

Eric Hammond, the former leader of Britain’s electricians’ union who made secret deals with Rupert Murdoch on the News Corp move to Wapping, has died at the age of 79.

He led the Electrical, Electronics, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EETPA) and made his name when he secretly negotiated with Murdoch over plans for the new News International production site in east London.

Hammond made a deal for his electricians to man the presses at Wapping, producing titles such as the Times and the Sun, leaving 3,500 print workers unemployed.

When the new plant opened, the angry Fleet Street print unions that had been forced out gathered outside and held ugly demonstrations.

Hammond, who never visited Wapping, insisted that his union had not done any deals with Murdoch.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) later decided to expel his 365,000 strong union in 1988, after finding him guilty on five out of seven charges over Wapping.

In his autobiography, Maverick: The Life of a Union Rebel, published in 1992, Hammond revealed that that there had indeed been an agreement, kept from his executive and with nothing put on paper.

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The Financial Times reported that he wrote: “He (Murdoch) turned to me and said: ‘Eric, I think we might have a deal.'”

The Daily Telegraph wrote that his only regret was that after the EETPU helped Murdoch smash the print unions, the media magnate had shown “not one spark of gratitude”.

According to The Independent, “in the publishing of his book, he pulled no punches in his fascinating account of how he helped Murdoch smash the print unions, an act for which he will never be forgiven by his brothers and sisters in what used to be called Fleet Street.”

Hammond was awarded an OBE in 1977, and died on 30 May 2009. He was married with two children.

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