The future of the global printing and packaging industries is looking up, with unions committed to making working conditions better in developing countries, according to a print union member.
AMWU print division former national secretary, Steve Walsh, says the outlook for the printing, packaging and graphical industries remains positive – despite changes to technology threatening jobs and the rise of multinational companies.
Walsh is now the department head of international printing union UniGlobal, based in Geneva. He reportedly told AMWU that recent agreements reached with Amcor and Kimberley Clark are paving the way for a better future for printing workers in developing countries.
“We’ve created a global dialogue agreement with Kimberley Clark which establishes protocols as far as organising, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The core ILO (International Labor Organization) standards,” Walsh told AMWU.
“Through our strength in various countries we’re able to influence the behavior of some of these multinationals in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa.”
Walsh was speaking off the back of a visit to Kimberley Clark plants in Latin America, and Columbia is apparently a big focus area for UniGlobal.
“It’s one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a union official. If we can influence the behavior of multinationals in a place like Columbia – we’re making improvements to workers lives,” he said.
“We need to build strong unions there. Not only to improve the standard of living for those people living there. But to try and create a level playing field for everyone.
“A lot of people will say it’s utopia but there are success stories.”
Walsh said that though conditions are worst in developing counties, union members in Australia, the UK and Europe were facing different but equally threatening challenges.
“It’s really quite scary the number of jobs that are being lost in the print and packaging sector, as company close or merge,” he said.
“The advancements in technology – e-books are certainly having an impact on the book industry – as is the move towards electronic communications.
“We may have seen the death of the small corner printer, churning our letterheads and business cards.
“But people still want quality, and that is where the industry’s future must be made.”