Joint declaration on cooperation in the printing sector

In November 2010, the EU sector-level social partners in the printing industry, UNI Europa Graphical and Intergraf, signed a joint declaration on future cooperation to help the industry face challenges such as rising costs and new technology. This follows a year-long project examining socially responsible restructuring in the sector. The partners will develop a joint action plan over the coming months, focusing on various issues including jobs and skills needs in the sector.

About the declaration

On 23 November 2010, the President of UNI Europa Graphical, Simon Dubbins, and the President of Intergraf, Håvard Grjotheim, signed a joint declaration (177Kb PDF) in which they pledge to continue joint efforts to help the EU printing industry overcome the challenges it is currently facing.

The declaration was signed at a conference on socially responsible restructuring, and followed a 12-month project carried out by employer and union representatives in the industry that led to the publication of a report (1.92Mb PDF) on best practices in socially responsible restructuring for printing companies. The project highlighted the value of an ongoing dialogue between employer and union representatives, at both national and European levels.

The project also resulted in the development of a toolkit (1.1Mb PDF), designed to help social partners in the printing industry follow established best practice when embarking on restructuring.

Challenges facing the industry

Overall, the printing sector in the EU is highly fragmented (more than 95% of companies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that employ fewer than 20 workers) and the recent crisis has had a major impact on the sector. The report notes that, in addition to the crisis, political, economic, social and technological issues have combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ of difficulty for the industry.

These issues include:

  • different national legislative frameworks;
  • EU competition law;
  • different national environments in a range of areas including social protection, tax and government support;
  • the cost of materials;
  • variation in labour costs;
  • outsourcing practices, changing skills and competence requirements;
  • demographic change;
  • the growth of new technology such as digital and online capabilities, and the growth of new media.

Recommendations for the industry

The report contains a number of recommendations, both for the industry as a whole and for companies operating in the industry, including:

  • joint information-sharing and the formulation of a joint vision for the future;
  • the creation of a joint platform for industry issues;
  • a focus on encouraging best practice when embarking on restructuring;
  • the creation of a campaign to promote the attractiveness of the industry;
  • an investment in knowledge and skills at all levels of a company;
  • a commitment to planning and employability;
  • development of external links, including with schools and colleges, to change perceptions of the industry;
  • the execution of good practice when restructuring, including establishing and using the appropriate channels for communication and consultation.

Content of declaration

In the joint declaration, the two organisations, together with their affiliates, commit themselves to continue meeting within the framework of a high-level working group to prepare a draft action plan for future joint activities at European level. The plan will include the following actions:

  • making recommendations for future joint projects, such as the setting up of an observatory for the industry, jobs and skills;
  • identifying transnational issues to bring to the attention of decision makers, opinion formers, the industry’s employees and employers;
  • involving other industry stakeholders, such as representatives of suppliers and customers as appropriate;
  • liaising with DG Enterprise of the European Commission on industry issues;
  • liaising with DG Employment and Social Affairs on social issues.
  • draft action plan will be submitted for discussion and adoption to both Intergraf and UNI Europa Graphical general assemblies, which take place in June 2011, with a view to formalising discussions within a European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee.

Commentary

This joint declaration is the latest step in a process of joint working that has been set up between the social partners in the EU-level printing sector. As the social partners recognise, this is a sector that has undergone, and will continue to undergo, significant levels of change, due not least to the continuing development and use of new technology. The industry and the companies that operate in this sector need to be aware of the need to keep pace with this change and to undertake any restructuring that is necessary in a way that is socially responsible. Working together to identify the issues and challenges that they face, and to develop ways of facing up to these challenges jointly is an effective way of ensuring that the industry is fit for the future.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

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