Job losses and pay cut at Printer

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February 2004 saw industrial action at Printer, a graphical company (part of the German Bertelsmann group) based in Barcelona, over management plans to cut nearly 100 jobs and reduce pay by 18%-24%.

On 23 April 2003, Printer Industria de Artes Gráficas- a graphical firm belonging to the German-based media multinational, Bertelsmann- presented a redundancy procedure (Expediente de Regulación de Empleo) (ES0311108T) which foresaw the loss of 245 of the 490 jobs at its plant in Sant Vicenç dels Horts (Barcelona). The Ministry of Labour of the Catalan regional government (Generalitat) - which was then a conservative nationalist administration - did not decide on acceptance of the plan for some months (in order to avoid losing votes in the November 2003 regional elections, it was alleged by some commentators).

Meanwhile, the company presented a new proposal to cut only 98 jobs but reduce pay by 18%-24%. In practice, according to the chair of the workers' committee, the pay cut will be greater than that because there will also be a wage freeze in the years to come that will bring the total pay reduction to 24%-44%. The company states that it suffered losses of EUR 1.78 million in 2002 and EUR 4 million in 2003. Its aim is to reduce labour costs by EUR 5 million, and within 20 years to reach wage costs similar to those in the rest of the graphic arts sector.

In January 2004, after the elections, which were won by a left-wing coalition, the regional Ministry of Labour decided to accept the new proposal by Printer to cut 98 jobs rather than the initial 245, though the workers' committee has decided to file an appeal against the decision. The 98 redundant workers will receive compensation of 45 days' pay per year of service, with a maximum of 16 months' pay. In late January, the company gave notice of dismissal to 46 workers, leading to 24-hour stoppages, demonstrations and traffic blockades near the Printer plant in February.

Printer is a leader in its sector and has been a pioneer in the processes of restructuring and technological innovation. At the beginning of the 1990s, it had about 1,000 employees. Since then, a crisis in the Latin American market and in book printing have led the management to restructure the more labour-intensive tasks by decentralising production towards small, subcontracted companies. Jobs such as handling, stapling, binding and plate processing have been transferred to small companies set up by the management of Printer. The result of this process has been the construction of a network or 'constellation' of companies around Printer, and in less than a decade the workforce has been reduced from 1,000 to 500. In recent years the problem of Printer's high costs in comparison with its competitors has increased.

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