Clays in consultation over job cuts

Hannah Jordan
Friday, March 10, 2017

Unite has said it will mount a “strong campaign” to save around 120 jobs under threat at Suffolk-based book printers, Clays.

The union said it has entered into consultation talks with management at the Bungay-based business, with more than 100 jobs at risk of redundancy across the pre-press, print and bindery departments of the £68m operation. The more than 200-year old business has a 700-strong workforce that includes around 550 Unite members.

It comes after Clays' embattled parent firm St Ives announced in its interim results this week that it was prepared to sell off its entire print operations in order to focus on its Strategic Marketing offering.

"Clays is the heart of the local community in Bungay and Unite members are the heart of Clays,” said Unite regional officer Mark Walker in a statement.

"This is a highly skilled and loyal workforce that is understandably concerned about job security in these economically challenging times.

"Unite has entered into a statutory period of collective consultation with management and will fight every step of the way to secure terms and conditions, and avoid compulsory redundancies.

“We want to mitigate the impact of any job losses and we will be mounting the strongest possible defence of our members’ jobs.

“We understand there are over 100 jobs placed at risk of redundancy, mainly affecting the shop floor in the pre-press, print and bindery departments.”

St Ives posted a profits warning a month ago due to the loss of its contract to print monochrome books for HarperCollins, which accounted for circa 16% of sales at Clays. The contract expires at the end of June.  

The proposed job cuts represent 17% of the workforce there. 

In a statement, Clays said: "After a lengthy period of market share gain, Clays has recently been informed by one of its customers that they will be transferring their book production contract to an alternative supplier. As a direct consequence of this decision, Clays management have announced redundancy proposals on which they will be consulting with all employees affected."

Managing director Paul Hulley said: “We are understandably disappointed with this news. We will work with all employees affected to find the best possible outcome.”

Separately, Clays strategic director Kate McFarlan announced she would be leaving the business last month. Clays thanked McFarlan for her "immense contribution" to the company's growth and success over her 20 years with the business. 

Hulley said that as a result of McFarlan's departure Vicky Ellis would become sales director for trade books, while Andrew Copley would head up new business as sales development director. 

McFarlan intends to pursue new ventures outside of print. She leaves in April. 

In the six months to 27 January 2016 overall sales at the PLC increased 5% to £195.1m although the group posted a loss of £26.8m. Book sales were up 15% to £41.4m but the division’s operating result dropped from £3.7m to £3.2m.

Commenting on the interim results at the time of publication St Ives chief executive Matt Armitage said: “We are reviewing strategic options for both our Marketing Activation and our Books segments whilst taking decisive action to improve efficiencies and reduce costs and to diversify our Marketing Activation sector focus. This is a priority for us in the months ahead and we will continue to report on its progress.”

Clays also made around 30 redundacies last year due to overstaffing resulting from a reorganisation of the work mix. 

St Ives' share price was at a 52 week low of just 50.9p (high: 230.7p) at the time of writing. 

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