Reach plans to close two plants

Reach: balancing production of its regional and national titles, and contract work
Reach: balancing production of its regional and national titles, and contract work

Reach is proposing to close the newest newspaper printing facility in the UK, with two of its print sites set for the chop with the potential loss of 150 jobs.

At the end of September Reach, which is the biggest contract newspaper printer in the UK, announced it would review its printing operations due to uncertainty over the levels of future work.

It is now proposing to close its Luton and Birmingham sites.

Reach Printing Services currently has six sites across the country.

The Luton site, formerly West Ferry Printers, was acquired in 2018 as part of Reach's acquisition of Northern & Shell’s publishing assets.

At the time there was concern about the long-term viability of the plant, which only opened in 2011, due to its proximity to Reach’s existing Watford site.

In a statement, Reach said the closures of Birmingham and Luton would put 150 jobs a risk of redundancy.

“Having conducted a review over recent weeks and taking numerous factors into account, we are proposing to consolidate our print operations into fewer sites. Regrettably, this would involve a reduction in our workforce so we have begun a consultation process that will be both full and considered. We would like to thank our print teams for their cooperation and understanding as we work through this process,” a spokesperson for the firm stated.

The group said that it planned to “balance the production of its national and regional print titles as well as third-party customers across its remaining print network”.

Unite national officer Louisa Bull said that the union had started consultations over the proposals.

Bull said that the situation was more complex in the case of the Luton site, because work will transfer from Luton to Watford.

“That will be a TUPE transfer, so the workers from both sites will be impacted by the headcount reduction on a skills basis in the redundancy consultation,” she explained.

“Unite will be trying to get the JRS in place if we can to support our members over the next few months.”

In its most recent results, for 2018, the Luton site had sales of just under £20.5m and posted a £15.6m pre-tax loss after a massive £16.35m write-off of fixed assets. 

The Birmingham site’s results are consolidated in the £141.3m Reach Printing Services figures.

Reach’s other sites are at Cardonald in Scotland, Teeside and Oldham.

Luton runs two Koenig & Bauer Commander CT double-width presses, while Birmingham runs a 12 unit Goss Colorliner 70.

Both sites also have Ferag systems. 

An industry source commented: “We thought it would be two sites but it seems odd that they are closing Luton and keeping older sites open.”