The printing industry has been experiencing difficulties for the past few years due to over-capacity, rising raw material costs and above all the general stagnation of the economy. The new year has started badly for the web offset sector as three big players have announced wage and job cuts.
Polestar, the magazine printer, has announced the closure of its Colchester factory, which employs 300 staff, and more job cuts over the rest of the group. The Wyndeham Group is laying off 85 staff at its Essex factory. And BGP, which employs 570 workers, has asked staff to vote on a pay cut of 20 per cent across the group.
Unite national officer Steve Sibbald describes the opening week of 2012 as “probably one of the worst we’ve ever had”. The union has condemned the BGP company ballot as illegal and urged its members to resist pay cuts. Sibbald says, “The problem in the sector isn’t wages, it’s over-capacity. Everybody at BGP, Polestar and Walstead could take a 50 per cent pay cut, but that isn’t going to create more work. At the moment the web-offset sector is just subsidising publishers at the cost of the staff.”
The problems of the industry affect even the mighty German engineering sector. One of the world’s biggest printing press manufacturers, ManRoland, has given up the ghost, affecting its 6,000 staff worldwide. Sales have halved since 2006. Meanwhile, its competitor Heidelberg, also based in Germany, has seen its sales fall by a third, prompting big lay-offs and factory closures. Heidelberg shares, which traded at a high of 45 euros, now sell for 1.50 euros. ■