Technology will save a lot of money for Sydney’s biggest independent
printing group, IPMG, owned by the wealthy Hannan family, but the group
is handling redundancies badly.
A fight over redundancies proposed for about 12 employees at a Sydney
suburban newspaper group has exposed a technology change that could
very well lead real estate agents and their clients to have to pay
significantly more for advertising.

FPC Courier Newspapers, part of the printing, magazine and newspaper
group controlled by the wealthy Hannan family of Sydney is in the
process of changing the placing of advertisements in its Sydney
suburban throwaway newspapers.

At stake are significant cost savings to the printers and publishers of
the real estate ad-laden Courier papers in Sydney, and other newspapers
and publications around the country.

FPCC (Federal Publishing Company Courier), is part of IPMG, the
Independent Print Media Group which controls the Courier group of free
city weekly newspapers in Sydney, with the Wentworth Courier the
flagship and main profit spinner because of its concentration on the
wealthy Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

Other Courier papers cover the inner city, inner west, inner southern suburbs and lower North Shore of Sydney. The Independent Print Media Group website gives you a list of titles and businesses.

There are magazines titles as well and custom and contract publishing
for Fairfax and a declining amount of work for ACP. It would be around
Number three after PBL’s ACP group and the Pacific Publications group
of Seven Network and Kerry Stokes.

Marinya Media, which controls Rural Press for the JB and TV Fairfax
families was a half owner in IPMG up till October last year when they
sold out to the Hannan Family.

According to a statement at the time IPMG has annual revenues in excess of $600 million.

One of its arms is the now slightly infamous Offset Alpine printing
group which has gained notoriety through a fire back in the early 90’s
and the involvement of Rene Rivkin, and others. The plant was rebuilt
after the fire with a $53 million insurance payout and the Hannan
bought the operation in 1995.

Macquarie Publication in Dubbo is its other main plant in NSW and where
it does a lot of printing for the John Fairfax media group.

While around 12 jobs at FPCC’s offices in the huge Alexandria plant of
IPMG in Sydney are at directly affected, the jobs of real estate
advertising salesmen look doomed once the new system is up and running.
Ten staff in Production at FPCC will remain after the changes to
oversee the working of the new system.

Other jobs could be affected eventually once the system is up and
running. But some employment will be created outside to help
advertisers meet the new system. The issue has already hit the
Australian Industrial Relations Commission where conciliation attempts
have failed. Now the issue looks like being arbitrated as the 12 staff
involved have rejected the employer offer of redundancy.

The changes are based on a move out of traditional printing methods.
IPMG, like so many publishers around the world are looking to cut
costs, so they are introducing new technologies that eliminate the
collection and processing of advertising at the printing plants.

IPMG through FPCCourier is looking to use a system they call Adesk. It
will see advertisers being forced to fill in templates supplied by the
company for their ads. All the costs associated with drawing up,
designing and e-mailing the ads will move to the advertisers,
especially in the rich real estate areas, which are the keys to IPMG
and the Hannan family’s wealth.

At the moment the advertising copy for the huge real estate sections
for the Courier papers are collected from the various agencies directly
or electronically through email. The ads are then made up at Alexandria
by the 25 or so people using Apple Mac-based publishing systems,
scanners and pagination. The ads are then sent directly to the press
for a process called CtP (Compute to Plate developed by Offset Alpine
and others).

Now the company says that real estate advertisers will have to email
their ads directly. Using new computer programs the ads will be
processed automatically and then send directly to Plate. The aim is to
eliminate handling at Alexandria or any other printing plant using the
system. Real estate agents large enough and wealthy enough, such as the
big chains, will be encouraged to do their work in house, making up the
ads in their offices on pc’s on templates supplied by FPC Courier. They
will have to scan them in pictures, complete the artwork, turn them
into an electronic file and download them to the FPCCourier computer
system.

They will use templates developed for the Adesk system. Smaller
agencies will have to get graphics or publishing contractors to help
(pre-press) set up and process their ads and then send them to FPCC. No
doubt IPMG will have a service available to handle these jobs, at a
price of course.

The savings will be in the hundreds of thousand of dollars a year to
IPMG. All profit as advertising rates won’t be cut, unless the real
estate agent is big enough to threaten to take all their business to
Cumberland, which is part of News Corp.

Redundancies will cost around $700,000 before tax, so the payback is quite apparent.

All the costs currently carried by FPCC for processing, checking and
handling at Alexandria will effectively be passed onto advertisers. The
agents will recover their higher costs by charging clients more for the
advertising section of the marketing campaigns for their properties. If
the property market worsens in the next few months as the system comes
on stream, some agents will probably be forced to swallow the costs and
trim profit margins.

What upsets the employees affected is that the redundancy and retaining
deal so far offered by FPCC is derisory in their opinion. The company’s
offer of training after exist is not thought a realistic one by the
employees or their union, the AMWU.

But so far the Company has rejected any further offers to negotiate,
including a pointed suggestion from an AIRC Commissioner two weeks ago.

The parties are due back in the Commission this week.

The employees particularly object to FPCC using a Performance Appraisal
in April to identify staff for redundancy. Staff also feel the
company’s offer of re-training has been vague, especially with existing
training schemes for an increasingly technical process not a big
feature of the workplace.

Peter Fray

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