After Lord Teverson MP kicked off proceedings by welcoming those invited to the occasion, Unite national officer Louisa Bull shared her views on current challenges.
“A lot has happened since we last met, but in some ways nothing has really changed. The challenges we spoke around last year around the cost-of-living crisis have not lessened.
“Energy, food, housing, and mortgage costs continue to rise for everyone and the pressures on employers to control costs do not lie with the pressures on my members and your workers to supply a pay award that keeps pace with inflation.”
She also alluded to the increasing impact of AI on the industry.
“We shouldn’t fight change but we need to make sure workers are properly equipped. Whilst robots are the most obvious physical manifestation of making human labour redundant, they are not even close to being the main job killers.
“It’s algorithmics - code containing previous human functionality that run our automated systems no longer requiring workers, and we need to be vigilant to ensure they are properly understood, regulated, and provide for human control in any final decision-making. AI is here to stay, and we need to stay ahead of these developments. Upskilling workers in post and ensuring our new intake of apprenticeships are given the correct tools and training will be key here.”
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold then highlighted the importance of the links between political and business decision-makers, “perhaps now more than ever”.
“I’m delighted at the effort that our team and all the sector associations put to strengthen those links.”
He also made a call to action for the BPIF’s members to link up with their local MPs to arrange site visits, which “are always invaluable”.
“I was talking to Lord Teverson earlier about how important it is that MPs understand business well, and there is no better way to achieve that than getting them out to visit your sites.”
Jarrold also flagged the 2023 launch of the BPIF’s biennial state of the industry review, UK Printing Facts & Figures, “which shows our sector continuing to thrive despite some challenges over the last few years”. He said the £13.7bn industry currently has over 7,000 companies.
“There’s much more we want to see happen though to ensure the UK print sector really develops, especially looking hard at legislation and working with our sector to ensure that the legislation’s desired outcomes are proportionate to the effort and cost.”
He added this referred in particular to the changes in producer responsibilities in packaging, but he also flagged up that changes in training could come up for review.
At the reception, Richard Walker, managing director of Harlow Printing, was given the Award for Outstanding Achievement.
There was also recognition for Greg Fitzgerald, business services manager at Bell & Bain, who won the Kathy Woodward Award for Learning, and Ryan O'Leary, an IT Technician from Adare SEC, who won the Victor Watson Award.
Speaking to Printweek at the event, O'Leary said he had worked for the business for just over a year and supports machinery both in the company’s offices and on the production floor.
“It’s great to be recognised with this achievement and it makes me more motivated to keep working and try my best. It’s nice that there’s something like this that I can win, I never expected it.”
He said he hoped to move up within the company, with more responsibilities, “and this will definitely really help to push that along now”.
Ian Allan, director of client growth and managing director at Adare SEC division Kalamazoo, added: “For Ryan or anybody in our organisation to be recognised is important because, especially in this industry where you need young blood coming through, you need to encourage and support those people. I think it's an amazing accolade for Adare SEC and something we’re very proud of.”
Robert McClements, president of BPIF specialist interest group Creative Digital Industries (CDI), and who Jarrold hailed for 25 years of service with the BPIF this year, also commented: “It’s a personal thing for me because Victor was my mentor and then my friend, and when he died it was important to keep his memory alive.
“He was passionate about young people and innovation so to launch this award in his name and in his spirit, it’s fantastic to see Victor’s name still being remembered with such youth and vigour and with that great support from their employer.”