Print firm facing joblosses

A PRINT workforce at Colchester is bracing itself for job losses after communications giant BT decided to award the contract for printing The Phone Book overseas for the first time.

A PRINT workforce at Colchester is bracing itself for job losses after communications giant BT decided to award the contract for printing The Phone Book overseas for the first time.

Job cuts among the 180-strong workforce at Benhamgoodheadprint (BGP) on the Severalls Industrial Park, which currently prints it, are now looking inevitable after the company lost the contract to Spanish company EINSA.

John Cooling, group managing director of the Goodhead Group, which owns the Colchester printworks, admitted their future was now “highly uncertain”.

The Goodhead Group is owned by printing millionaire John Madejski, owner of Reading Football Club.

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Mr Cooling said printing the directory was a “substantial part” of their business, and the three months' notice - they were told on December 13 - meant job losses were “inevitable” since there was little time to find alternative contracts for the plant.

But BT said there was a tender process of approximately seven months, and that EINSA had provided the “most competitive” solution, and one which met the current and future needs of The Phone Book.

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“They have only given us 12 weeks' notice of the loss of the contract. That's what's making things difficult. When we won the contract we got 15 months' notice,” said Mr Cooling.

He claimed the decision was on “price only” although BT cited a number of factors. The previous contractor had 15 months to find alternatives when BGP won it, he claimed, while they had only until the end of March.

“With us we got three months' notice for losing 30,000 tonnes of printing. It's going to be impossible to replace that volume of tonnage in 12 weeks, therefore it's inevitable there'll be job losses.”

By today , he hoped to have a clearer idea of how many jobs would be lost, but could not give a figure yesterday (Monday, January 16>

“All of us have been striving since December 13 to get new work. We have a few irons in the fire but whether they'll work for us, that's what I can't say yet,” he said.

“As soon as we found out we told them and they have been fantastic. They are a very loyal bunch of people, highly skilled,” he said. “They have done nothing wrong.”

He described them the workforce as an “absolutely brilliant bunch”.

A spokesman for BT said: “We can confirm that BGP (benhamgoodheadprint) will no longer be manufacturing The Phone Book from BT. The new contract has been awarded to the Spanish company EINSA (EINSA Print International).

“This includes the printing and production of all BT's 171 UK local directories. Einsa is one of Europe's leading printers and its current clients include a number of directory suppliers such as TPI (Telefonica) and Pages Jaunes (France Telecom). It will begin to manufacture The Phone Books from March 2006.”

He added that BT had the contract with BGP since 1997 and there was an option to extend that until March 2006 which was exercised in 2004.

“It was approximately a seven-month tender process. On the timing, obviously, we communicated the tender process with them over several months to allow them as much notice as possible to put in place any contingency plans that may be required,” he said.

“Einsa offered the most competitive solution at this time in the market place. Flexibility is another key reason. The company has available printing capacity to meet the current and future needs of The Phone Book.”

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