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Message left by Natsopa at Coventry Telegraph, UK

Started by Dave Hughes, August 25, 2017, 12:45:34 PM

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Dave Hughes

I was contacted by Rachel Matthews who would like to get to the bottom of this little mystery.

Says Rachel: "The former Coventry Telegraph building is currently open to the public before it's turned into a hotel. One pillar in the print room bears the message (in cut out newsprint!) NATSOPA eyeball 10-20. Any idea what it might mean? We know NATSOPA was a print union but nothing beyond."

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Mike Wilson

It may be to do with vision. Good vision is said to be 20/20. Perhaps 10-20 is better than normal or half the normal. I'd suggest it's a comment by someone who thinks NATSOPA has limited vision, perhaps half perfect sight. Whatever that means.

Dave Hughes

I think you might be on to something there Mike. Perhaps the words were put up in the dying days of the properly unionised newspaper industry.

Maybe it was put up by members of a union other than NATSOPA (SOGAT, SLADE or NGA perhaps) criticising NATSOPA members for being short-sighted in negotiations.
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Mike Wilson

Hi Dave. If I remember correctly, NATSOPA helped the craft unions (like the old Typographical Association or the National Graphical Association) to oil the machines, take off the newspapers, sweep the floors etc. In newspaper offices, the print union (NGA) could not run the machines without the say-so of NATSOPA, so experienced pressmen were hampered by the sweepers-up. I think it was very much making restrictions on who could handle what. The pressmen could handle the press, but the paper was a different matter. That had to be handled by assistants (NATSOPA). I am led to believe that a pressman was not allowed to take a single paper from the delivery system to check that his section was printing correctly, but that a NATSOPA man had to do that.
It would be constructive to discover which union backed down first: NGA or NATSOPA. The first to back down to management demands would be considered short-sighted by the other union.
Oh, what fun!
Anyone can give me what really happened as I worked at a small town newspaper in East Yorkshire rather than the capital or other large city.
It is my opinion that the trade unions were determined not to transfer to the new technology and continued to hold managements to ransom. But perhaps everything was going to change anyway when the computer was introduced into typesetting and publishing.
Well, that's my bee in the bonnet let out for a breath of fresh air.
Nice to read these observations on the net. Thanks to you Dave.

Roy Bowker

First of all let me say I am not in any way biased. However in reply to the notice found "NATSOPA EYEBALL 20-10". I say this.....
   I have been a trade union member ( from M.T.S.S.D. London 1954  to UNITE present). Branch member in London and F.O. C. in two companies in the South West. Enough of that.
   I am quite aware of restrictive practices throughout the printing unions in the newspapers of London, the home counties, and the general trade in those areas. I think that unless anyone who had something to do with that notice comes forward, there can only be speculation as to exactly what it means.
  So I will speculate. First, N.A.T.S.O.P.A. were a very powerful union within print. I.E. their letters meant Nat. Society of Printer's Assistants, but through strength became Printer's AND Assistants. Due to the fact they obtained the ability to run small print machines, thus put into their title. So as in life, if a person or organization becomes more powerful they do attract critics/enemies. Could that notice be an opinion of one of those parties?
  I could go on to substantiate my theory, but that I am afraid would go into many words.
  Roy Bowker

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