Shock at the announcement of the closure of the Kells printing works

Meath TDs Johnny Guirke and Darren O’Rourke with Cllr Michael Gallagher and Smurfit Kappa factory workers at a protest in June. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

Nearly 60 workers in the company bought by News Corp in June

Just two months after acquiring the Smurfit Kappa News print shop in Kells, News UK and Ireland Limited will close the print shop which employs 59 people.

In a devastating blow, the parent company, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, made the announcement on Monday evening, just over two months after closing the deal on June 25 to acquire the company.

Announcing the agreement to buy the plant in May, News UK & Ireland Ltd said an agreement had been reached with Smurfit Kappa to acquire full ownership of printing business Smurfit Kappa News Press (SKNP) based in Kells.

At the time, a spokesperson for News UK & Ireland Ltd said: “We have had a successful relationship with Smurfit Kappa for over 20 years and, with the current printing contract entering its final stages, this agreement offers the opportunity for News UK & Ireland to secure its longer-term printing agreements and delivery to the Irish market. »

However, the announcement immediately sparked concern among workers for their jobs and a protest outside the factory to ensure their terms of employment were met.

On Monday evening, a statement was released through a PR firm saying: ‘After a thorough review of the Kells-based printing company News Press Ireland Limited (NPIL), News UK & Ireland has concluded reluctantly it was proposing to close the factory and outsource printing to other third party printing sites in Ireland. This proposal is subject to consultation and the company will communicate with the staff and the union, as appropriate. This development will have no impact on the publication of News Ireland’s news brands.

A spokesperson for News UK & Ireland Ltd continued: “News UK & Ireland Limited will continue to invest in our quality journalism and serve our readers. While this is a difficult conclusion to reach, we believe it offers the most viable and sustainable long-term solution for the print industry. We would like to thank News Press Ireland staff in Kells for their continued cooperation and understanding, and are committed to offering all possible support as we undertake the staff consultation process.

It is understood that there are 59 employees at the facility. A 30-day consultation process with employee representatives begins today (Wednesday), with all final decisions remaining subject to this consultation.

SIPTU organizer Teresa Thompson said: “The announcement that News UK & Ireland Ltd intends to close its printing works in Kells has come as a serious shock to the more than 50 SIPTU members employed at the facility and their These workers continued to work throughout the pandemic and actively participated in a review of plant operations.

She added: “SIPTU representatives will seek immediate engagement on issues affecting our members. This will include reviewing the proposed plant closure and, if this is to proceed, ensuring that all associated redundancy plans reflect the appropriate recommendations of the Labor Court.”

SIPTU shop steward Tony Kelly said: “My colleagues and I are deeply saddened and disappointed by the announcement of the company’s intention to stop printing at the factory. This has left our families and the local community extremely worried about the future.The SIPTU Factory Committee is now eager to start a dialogue with management to ensure that if the factory is to close, the conditions for dismissal of workers are fair and consistent with existing recommendations.”

Meath East TD Darren O’Rourke, who supported workers at their protest in June, said today: ‘The news of this impending closure is very, very disappointing for the local economy of Kells and the region in a broad sense, but more specifically for the workers involved and their families. I want to express my solidarity with them in these uncertain times. It is absolutely essential, in the short time ahead, that News UK & Ireland engages in good faith with this group of dedicated workers and their representatives and honors long-standing agreements. »

News UK & Ireland already owned the Kells factory site, which had been leased to Smurfit Kappa News Press (SKNP) under a long-term printing agreement. The factory has been in business for over 20 years and prints the Irish edition of The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and The Financial Times. News Corp, of which News UK & Ireland Ltd is a subsidiary, has owned the premises for some time, but the Rupert Murdoch-owned company only took over the operation of the print shop and the employment of staff from SKNP until in June. This sale was investigated and approved by the state regulator, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

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