Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting a good groove going

After two weeks of flailing and flapping, I'm definitely getting a good groove on with the book version of TPO. I locked down the 70s last week and am now well into the 80s - the golden age of 2000 AD by the reckoning of many people. The first half of that decade shouldn't take long to revise, simply because I don't have a lot of new material to add. The second half of the 80s will require more care, as I tore through it with an indecent haste when TPO was a series of articles for the mighty Megazine. Major innovations like Zenith were skimmed over all too quickly, something I'm keen to address with this revised and expanded book version. Now, on to today's extract:
Readers expecting to buy Prog 165 in May 1980 were given an unpleasant surprise – publication of 2000 AD was halted for five weeks by industrial action. The National Union of Journalists called a strike at IPC, obliging the editorial team to stop work. MacManus says strikes were an all too common occurrence. ‘We often had strikes because the NUJ clashed strongly with IPC. The comic department always got dragged into these things. One was about free coffee, another was about demanding management pay us a reading allowance for buying reference material. The free coffee strike was a bit silly.’

Unsurprisingly, John Sanders is less forgiving about such incidents. ‘Enormous damage was done to the Youth Group by the 1980 strike, and by all the other stupid strikes the staff got themselves in to. After five weeks you lost all reader credibility and they switched their allegiance to DCT titles, which were not union controlled. These strikes were very common and they were almost always about money. I would say the most militant union officials at IPC were in the Youth Group. I decided to make a point. We would have to lose a title or two to concentrate our resources on fewer titles when the strike was over. The one I wanted to close was 2000 AD. There were two reasons for this. One was that it had the most militants around it, and the other was its closer would make the greatest impact on the rest of the Youth Group staff.

‘For several days I was determined to shut down 2000 AD. Gradually other people persuaded me this move would not be in the ultimate interest of Youth Group profits, although they agreed with me it would probably be in the interests of the Youth Group. But something had to go.’ Sanders instead shut a newly launched girls’ comic with very high circulation, whose editor was one of the NUJ militants within the Youth Group. ‘The staff lost their jobs. The whole thing was tragic.’ Sanders had been an NUJ member since he was 17, but says unions were becoming a festering sore for publishers. ‘These strikes were about greed and self-destruction. They did more endangered titles – they ruined them.’ 2000 AD’s editorial team remained ignorant of their brush with cancellation. ‘All these plans were kept from the staff, who never knew how close they were to losing their jobs. If I had owned the company at that point, I would have killed 2000 AD there and then, not the new girls’ launch, and I would have enjoyed doing so.’

Wordcount target: 120,000. Today's wordcount: 35,413.


Blogger Unknown said...

I came across this while looking for something else about IPC, but just for the record (I was a union official at IPC at that time): there was no five-week strike in 1980. The union voted to start an overtime ban in protest against a below-inflation pay offer, and the company said that unless union pledged not to implement the ban it would sack everyone. Indeed, that's what it did, before any action had even started, saying we had "dismissed ourselves". Naturally, we were disinclined to believe that we had sacked ourselves, and turned up for work the next day. We carried on trying to work for six weeks, during which the company refused to let anything be published (lest that prove that we were working). Six weeks later it saw sense, reinstated us and paid us lost salary (and expenses). If anyone was "obliging" staff to stop work, it was the company. Strange times. I remember Steve, and he's a great guy, but memories fade into legend, etc: in fact there was no strike over free coffee; there was a work to rule over a number of issues wrapped up in IPC Magazine's refusal to honour a pledge to negotiate a "local" (i.e., IPC Magazines-wide rather than also IPC Business Press etc) agreement that included late working allowances, reading allowances and also, yes, free tea and coffee. No one in their right mind would have a strike about free tea and coffee on their own! As for what John Sanders said, well, virtually none of it is credible. He never liked 200AD because its staff were not under his thumb. The magazine closed during the 1980 dispute was not high selling nor recently launched. It was Pink, I think, which was old (by girls' magazines standards) and ailing, and would have been closed anyway. Sanders' comments about NUJ militants there and at 200AD are ridiculous. I don't remember any particular hotbeds of militancy. Most of us were pretty much sickened by IPC's attitudes towards its journalists.

8:45 AM  

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