Last week the MediaHuis group, which owns the Independent titles and Belfast Telegraph, made public its plans to end printing at their Newry site. The facility is their last remaining printing site in Ireland, north or south, and is now set to close at the end of January with the loss of 46 jobs. Unite the union, which represents the majority of the workforce, is engaging in the redundancy consultation process with the aim of avoiding closure and the loss of jobs.
The Newry facility is the only facility in Northern Ireland which can utilise both the ‘heatset press’ and ‘dual-web’ technique and its shutdown represents a major blow to the print sector in the region. Unite expressed its fears that the closure will result in a ripple effect as it removes the back-up capacity, leaving papers with reduced contingency options should there be problems at other plants.
The ultimate owner of the printing site is the Belgian-owned MediaHuis group which reported a net profit of Eur 117.3 million in 2021, double that the previous year. The announced closure came just hours after the Dublin government’s 2023 budget applied a zero VAT rate to print media – likely to save MediaHuis Eur 15 million annually.
Unite regional officer Neil Moore challenged the owners on their plans for closure.
“This company is under no financial pressure to shut this site and make the workforce redundant – this is simply about increasing profits – even when it means they are removing any capacity for contingencies. The company is amongst the main beneficiaries of the newspaper VAT cut by the Dublin government – and now they move to shut down their last printing press in Ireland.
“If this closure proceeds, it will be another blow to the Newry economy and to the print sector generally. While we will be seeking to maximise redundancy payment, our first priority is saving these jobs and this productive capacity.”