Independent News and Media (INM) has decided to shut its printing plant in Citywest in Dublin with the loss of 84 jobs, after almost two-thirds of the facility's staff applied for a voluntary redundancy scheme.
Siptu, the trade union that represents most of the workers at the printing facility, described the plant’s planned closure early next year as a “massive blow”.
"It is deeply disappointing that a profitable company has made such a decision which affects the entire workforce," said Siptu organiser, Martin Mannion.
The union is seeking an “urgent meeting” with management and suggested it won’t accept compulsory redundancies. The printing staff who accepted the recent voluntary offer will be paid severance of statutory redundancy plus two weeks’ pay for every year of service, capped at two years’ pay.
INM, which was taken over this year by Belgian group Mediahuis, has signalled that it will shift some of the printing of its flagship newspapers, including the Irish Independent and its portfolio of regional titles such as the Kerryman, to the group's other plant in Newry, Co Down.
INM says it will also break up some of its printing requirements into smaller contracts for third-party printing companies. It is understood that The Irish Times, which also operates a printing plant in Citywest close to the INM facility, is highly unlikely to take on any of the work.
Talks between INM and The Irish Times over a potential printing arrangement were held earlier this year, but are understood to have petered out. Management at The Irish Times declined to comment.
Other potential options for printing the INM titles include Webprint in Cork and the Smurfit Kappa-owned plant in Kells, Co Meath, that is used by the Sun owner, News UK & Ireland.
INM told staff on Wednesday that it had planned to consolidate all its printing in Citywest on to one night-time shift, replacing the current day and night shifts, and moved to full closure only when it saw the level of interest in the voluntary scheme.
The new management team at INM, led by publisher Peter Vandermeersch, has also faced questions from editorial staff over the last week about the possibility of redundancies.
Two INM photographers were recently made compulsorily redundant, a move which was met with sharp criticism from the National Union of Journalists. A recent proposed motion circulated among INM NUJ members condemned the “disgraceful” treatment of the photographers.
An NUJ chapel motion also called on Mediahuis to reinvest all of INM’s €80 million cash pile back into the company, after an “unsatisfactory response” from Mr Vandermeersch when he was asked about it at a recent staff meeting.