More layoffs announced at printing department

bshannon@theolympian.comJanuary 18, 2014 

Layoff notices have gone out to 15 employees at the former Department of Printing, the latest round of cutbacks that will shrink the 68-person operation to less than half its 2008 size.

The reductions in force, which take effect Feb. 1, are in addition to the abolishing of two vacant jobs, according to Curt Hart, spokesman for the Department of Enterprise Services. The cuts represent about 25 percent of the workforce at the Tumwater-based printing and imaging operation.

DES took over the state’s printing operation in October 2011 as part of a consolidation of five state agencies into three — including the formation of DES as a successor to General Administration.

“This has been going on before the consolidation (into) Enterprise Services. It all reflects the change in the digital age. There is just less demand for offset printing,’’ Hart said Friday. “We’re working on whether we can place people in other vacant positions in other areas of the agency … or other agencies.’’

Brian Earl, president of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 767M that represents some of the workers, agreed that the shift to digital technology culture-wide has led to less demand for printing. “For example, there are fewer forms being used everywhere. This is not just in government,’’ Earl said. “Here I think we’ve held on to more work for longer because honestly I’d say this unit has been paying for themselves.’’

The printing operation also has been the target of efforts to privatize printing, and the 2011 reform legislation that created DES had language requiring the Office of Financial Management to consider three state functions for possible contracting out to the private sector. Those included hosted web services, mail delivery outside Thurston County and printing.

“You never want to celebrate someone getting fired. But you should celebrate that the bill is doing what it was intended to do — for the state to save money where it can on noncore functions of government,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, the Spokane Republican who sponsored the agency merger bill in 2011. “You can use those savings for more important things like education and higher education. … There’s much more to be done.’’

Baumgartner still hopes the state can contract services such as printing and vehicle fleets to the private sector.

Michael McKinlay, manager of the printing and imaging program, said layoff notices went out Jan. 6 to the 15 employees whose jobs are being eliminated. Of those, nine were represented by labor unions, and one was a supervisor.

Hart said the agency looked for efficiencies as well as ways to boost its business. It consulted private industry, operations in Oregon and Idaho and also at major universities in Washington. But the trend away from traditional offset printing is happening across all sectors.

“What’s going on is the change in technology that has put computers on everybody’s desk — the ability for everybody to have graphics and design,’’ he said.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com theolympian.com/politics-blog theolympian.com/state-workers @bradshannon2

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