Thursday, 23 May 2013

MPG Printers faces administration

Once again, we hear another tale of potential closure and job losses in the print industry, this time at MPG. This is of particular concern to me as last year Cambridge University Press, where I work, outsourced its remaining printing business to this company.

In 2009, Cambridge University Press faced its first wave of job cuts to its Printing division. The original plan was to scale back the business to a minimum, with around 160 printing jobs at stake. However, a highly visible campaign led by the union at the Press, helped save around half of those jobs.
( Last year, 2012, the whole Printing division was closed, wiping out not only the remaining jobs but with it the oldest printing press in the world with over 800 years of history.

Of course, the impact of such closures is first and foremost on the workers themselves. However, with Cambridge University Press placing much of its printing with MPG, there are also questions hanging over how the Press's printing needs will now be met.

The article in Print Week cites lack of funding for the cashflow crisis, with MPG seriously underestimating the cost of relocating its business. Another reason often given in these situations is overcapacity in the industry, with more printers than demand. However, as is also often the case, printing businesses are not always on their knees financially. As the article goes on to state, just two years ago in 2011 MPG made a pre-tax profit of over £800,000.

Although printing is an industry in decline, partly due to the shift towards content moving online, partly because of cheaper printing outside of Britain, it is still a major player in British industry and is expected to generate a revenue of around £8.9 billion for 2013-14 ( As Mark Twain said, 'The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." There is still life in the industry, but the greater competition and economic climate results in job losses, closures and attacks in the industry and a belief amongst many that there is little that can be done to reverse this trend.

Yes, we have to accept the changes in technology mean there are inevitable changes to the industry and jobs it generates. Ultimately, the decline in the industry raises bigger political questions around the organisation of work in capitalist society. But in the meantime, do we have to accept that nothing can be done? Or could we be fighting to invest in the latest technology and retain the best skills we have and train to acquire new ones, and fighting to save every job where we can?