Blog post

A statement from our UK printer

An update on workplace safety practices and business during COVID-19 from our UK printer.

Verso Books15 September 2020

A statement from our UK printer


As we have just passed the first Super Thursday of 2020 I thought it would be a good time to review where we are as a business. 2020 has been a year like no other with Covid 19 impacting on all of us in many different ways, certainly from a business perspective it has been exceptionally challenging.

In April and May our sales, like many other businesses, fell off a cliff, 60% of our workforce was furloughed and the remaining employees did an absolutely sterling job keeping books going out of the door. They were coming on to site everyday when the rest of the country was in lockdown, recognising the importance of keeping the business going, I will be forever grateful to those individuals, for their desire to do the best they could in extremely challenging circumstances.

I am also extremely thankful to those customers who were able to support us through that initial two month period, the support we had was testament to the strong relationships we have built up over the years, working together in a true partnership.

Covid 19 has meant we have all had to find a different way to work – our admin staff were set up to work from home, however this obviously wasn’t possible for the 300 plus employees we have working on the shop floor. We therefore have had to look at how we can effectively run the business and be Covid 19 Secure. This has meant introducing a number of steps:

• Thermometers at all entrances – all employees to take temperatures prior to entering sites, anyone with a high temperature is sent home.

• Policing the two metre social distancing – the site has a lot of signage pointing this out, and managers are also there to regularly remind employees. For those who are particularly nervous, we have produced badges for them to wear, as an extra reminder to their colleagues to stay apart from them.

• Hand sanitisers are positioned around the sites, along with antiseptic wipes for cleaning down work areas.

• Additional cleaning hours to ensure communal areas are continually kept clean.

• Stopping shift crossovers – prior to our current position the business was run 24/6 with running shift changeovers to ensure we were optimising productivity. We now stop all shifts early, to enable employees to clock out 10 mins early and clock in is now 5 minutes later, this is to reduce the possibility of cross contamination between the shifts. This has obviously had a significant impact on our available capacity, binding capacity alone has been reduced by 40 hours/week.

• Stopped employing agency workers, we now have a pool of zero hours workers who are either friends or family of our employees. We introduced this programme to help our employees feel more comfortable about our need to bring in additional people to flexibly manage the peaks in capacity.

Until recently we also stopped any visitors coming on site. However we have relaxed this rule and are now carefully managing any site visits – minimising the number of people involved, following social distancing protocol and ensuring masks are worn whilst on the shop floor.

We have also reintroduced ‘Covid Secure’ author signings. We are limiting the number each week and have specific guidelines, however held the first one last week which went exceptionally well. Definitely helped by having a delightful author!

We are about to install screens in the admin offices so we can start bringing our teams back to work in the office. We expect to have everyone back to work by mid October.

Regarding volume of work, as always at this time of year, we are seeing the peaks – slightly more peaky this year due to the sheer number of hardback titles being squeezed into the second half of the year. We are doing all we can to manage these peaks and are especially grateful for the flexibility we are getting from all of you when we have hit a particularly ‘sticky’ week. Although we could create more capacity by reintroducing running shift changeovers, I’m afraid at the moment I don’t feel this is the right thing to do, either for our employees or the wider business, so please do bear with us.

To update on the rest of the business, unfortunately the effect of Covid has been much more damaging than we have seen in Trade Books. CPI Colour, who serve amongst other industries, retail and hospitality, has been particularly hard hit which has forced us to look at significant cost reductions through a redundancy programme. It has also been necessary to make redundancies at CPI Clowes due to the impact Covid has had on the markets they serve. At the same time we have fully utilised the furlough scheme and still have a number of employees on furlough. We are seeing volumes beginning to return to these two businesses, however the increase is slow, and pretty sporadic. For our digital business within CPI Antony Rowe, academic and educational book publishing is still generally down on pre-COVID levels, and we are therefore comfortably meeting current demand.

To close, I would like to thank you all for the support you have given us over these difficult months. Although the outlook continues to be uncertain, I do hope we will start seeing more of you, in person, over the coming weeks/months. If you have any questions about the above, please do contact me at any time.

I very much hope you see strong book sales through this latter part of the year and that 2021 is a more positive year for all of us.

With very best wishes

Tanya Dunbar

Managing Director CPI Books

10th September 2020

Note: This statement was reviewed for accuracy in November 2021. No changes were required.

Read statements from our US and UK warehouses here.