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Fairfax print centre closure leaves Tasmanians stranded

Wednesday, 30 July 2008
By Print 21 Online Article

Fairfax rationalisation triggers exodus for Tasmanian printers.

After its merger with Rural Press last year, Fairfax has ended ongoing speculation by closing The Advocate newspaper’s Harris printing centre in Burnie, resulting in the loss of 30 full-time jobs and 30 casual positions.

Harris printing will produce its last issue of The Advocate on Saturday 23 August and the plant will officially close on 24 August. From then on the paper will be printed in Fairfax’s Launceston site, where many employees have been encouraged to apply.

But sources close to the Burnie plant say that many staff are saddened and angered by the news and that most will not transfer to Launceston.

Donna Sargent, AMWU organiser said that the closure has had a devastating effect on staff.

"Employees are shocked," she said. "The majority of permanent staff have been there for over ten years, some have remained for as long as 30 years."

Sargent rejected claims that transferring to other Fairfax printing plants was a viable option.

"The likelihood of these people finding more printing work in Tasmania has been significantly diminished and some have mentioned total career changes which is a life-altering decision to make," she said.

Sargent also pointed to that fact that The Advocate is produced on web presses, and not all printing staff were trained in sheetfed. "Some staff have very limited experience in sheetfed [which limits their employment options in commercial printing] but to use web presses they would have to travel to Launceston or Hobart."

One employee said that he was considering the option of working overseas, while another claimed that this closure reflected the bleak state of the printing industry in Australia.

A spokesman from Fairfax was unable to comment as to whether there would be further closures to printing plants across Australia.

Sargent said that the AMWU are currently looking at vacancies for printers both in Tasmania and around the country.

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