News International told Leveson phone-hacking inquiry he could have ‘no choice’ but to accept trade unions, 25 years after Wapping dispute


The anti-union media mogul Rupert Murdoch has said he would ‘accept the democratic decision’ of workers at News International to join an independent trade union.

25 years after unions were de-recognised by the owner of the Sun and now-defunct News of the World, the NI chairman has told the Leveson phone hacking inquiry he would ‘have no choice’ but to allow unions to organise and represent workers again.

Rupert Murdoch was speaking under cross-examination on the second day of his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, in response to a number of questions tabled by by the journalists’ union.

The NUJ is a core participant at the inquiry and is represented by the union barrister, John Hendy QC (pictured, below, with NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet at an earlier session of the inquiry).

The areas of questioning included:

– The treatment of journalists/photographers and the culture of bullying as factors influencing unethical news gathering practices
– NUJ recognition at New International
– News International’s role in the creation of trade union laws in the UK
– The NUJ’s conscience clause proposal
– The role of the management standards committee

Asked if News International had discussions with Tony Blair or his officials about trade union recognition provisions in labour law, Rupert Murdoch answered “no”

He said there has been no investigation within News International of allegations of bullying: “They always strike me as a very happy crowd,” he said.

“Our journalists are perfectly free to make complaints and perfectly free to join the NUJ”

When questioned by Lord Leveson about the NUJ’s conscience clause proposal Murdoch said “I think that’s a good idea.”

“If they could find a majority of our journalists who want to join the NUJ, we would have no choice…. I’d accept their democratic decision.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The NUJ was pleased to have the opportunity to quiz Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry.

“We’re pleased that Rupert Murdoch gave his support for a conscience clause in journalism contracts – a long-standing campaign by the NUJ.

“We hope that other media owners and editors now commit to back our plan, which will give journalists legal protection if they refuse assignments that they believe would breach the NUJ’s Code of Conduct.

“It was also heartening to hear Murdoch envisage a future where the NUJ will be back representing journalists in News International.

“Now that the owner of the UK’s largest media group has conceded that he has no problem with his staff choosing to be represented by an independent trade union of their choice instead of a management-imposed staff association, I’m sure recruitment and organisation across the titles will see a big boost.

“The NUJ will now step up its work supporting journalists and building the recently-established News International NUJ chapel in the coming weeks and months.”

Michelle Stanistreet will be debating the future of media after the phone-hacking scandal during the UnionNews debate at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in July.

You can watch our film report on the Leveson Inquiry here:


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