Cambridge University Press recently announced plans to axe 160 jobs at two sites in Cambridge.
Thirty redundancies at the company’s education department have already been confirmed, and management wanted a further 130 redundancies at the press itself. However, a concerted effort by the press workers, the local trades council, and local people has forced management to reduce the number of redundancies to 53.
Workers at the press recently agreed to a three year wage freeze, a gradual realignment of wages with industry norms, and the loss of their final salary pension scheme, measures which were part of a “survival package”, which was supposedly necessary to keep the press operating. The workers also implemented an 80% increase in productivity, completely on their own initiative, all to save the press from closure.
However, according to Nigel Gawthrope, the Unite union’s Father of the Chapel (workplace union representative), management have been trying to shut down all their printing activity in Cambridge. Last year, for example, they failed to gain the Cambridge Assessment Contract, which should have been easy to obtain, and more recently, they have outsourced English Language printing jobs to Brazil and south-east Asia.
Weeks before the “consultation period” with workers was due to end, bosses sent out letters to key customers a informing them that the press was going to stop operating. Bosses even began to outsource some of their contracts to other local printers! Since such an action assumed that redundancies would occur before they had been confirmed, it broke legal codes by putting peoples’ jobs in danger. Management were forced to write to all their customers again saying the press was still open for business.
The only person who has assurances that their job is safe is the managing director, Stephen Bourne, whose pay now runs at £260,000 a year.
However, the situation isn’t hopeless. In one of the largest demonstrations in Cambridge’s history, nearly 500 people protested against the job cuts on 14 February, and the workers have been engaged in a sustained publicity campaign to gain public support. Management are rattled, and embarrassed by workers exposing their bad practice; they have given significant concessions, reducing the overall number of redundancies from 160 to 83.
Solidarity of Cambridge workers has apparently saved 77 jobs, and further use of workers’ and local peoples’ power and organisation could save all the jobs at the press.