End of printing at Belfast Telegraph costs 89 jobs
A PRINTING works in the Belfast Telegraph's landmark city centre building is to close - a move that is set to cost almost 90 jobs and will see the daily paper relocate its offices.
Independent News and Media Limited has blamed the closure of the Royal Avenue premises on continuing decline in print volumes and the end of a key contract.
The newspaper has occupied the four-storey landmark building for more than 130 years.
The Unite union has expressed shock at the sudden announcement.
Unite regional officer, Sean Smyth, said: “While we had some concerns about the commitment of INM to its Royal Avenue base for some time, this large-scale job loss announcement has come out of the blue.
"Management proposals will mean up to 89 job losses, with plans for 61 being lost in October and the remaining 28 going in June 2016. The remainder of the 201 jobs and print-work currently based in Belfast will then be transferred to their lower-cost operations centre in Newry.
“This is the latest in a series of job loss announcements in Belfast reflecting the continuing difficult conditions prevailing in our economy. Management has sought to justify the case for these job losses by pointing to the long-term downward trend in demand for print and the recent loss of a major contract.
“Unite rejects this explanation, instead the decision to relocate production appears to be driven by management’s desire for profit-maximisation.
"We will be seeking to use the 30-day consultation period to engage with our membership on our response and to investigate opportunities to minimise the impact of this announcement on the workforce."
Meanwhile, North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland has also expressed his "deep disappointment at the decision".
He said: The Belfast Telegraph dates back to 1870 and their printing business has provided employment in Belfast for more than 140 years.
"I have already spoken to Independent Newspaper about this development and DUP representatives will seek to meet them early next week to get a clearer picture of the background to this decision. We will also want to speak to the trade union that represents the workers.”
A spokesman for INM said: "The company appreciates the difficult situation this causes for employees and will begin a period of consultation with the workforce and their trade union representatives."
As well as its own titles, INM prints several national newspapers in the architecturally acclaimed building.
INM publishes the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life and Sunday World in Northern Ireland. The company said business at those titles would not be impacted but staff would be moved to new offices.
The company said discussions would be held with other publishers that use the printers to find alternative arrangements before the Belfast operation closes - which will happen in the next 10 months.
The spokesman added: "The closure of the print operation reflects the wider global trend in declining newspaper circulations, and the rise of news consumption via digital channels. INM remains committed to its long term strategy of multiplatform news delivery in Northern Ireland."