DOT Institute’s webinar on wages during the lockdown

Wage issues facing the print industry

Uday Dhote, director of DIGC

Mumbai’s DOT Institute of Graphic Communication (DIGC) recently conducted a webinar on 24 June 2020 to discuss payment of wages during the lockdown. DIGC invited advocate Mahesh Shukla, an expert in labor laws and advisor to important government institutions and companies, to talk about the Supreme Court order on payment of wages during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown have changed the way we work. The lockdown first imposed on 25 March for three weeks was extended several times till June. Selective relaxations were announced in mid-May. Despite further ‘unlockings,’ the economy is not fully functioning with significant sectors such as mass transport in large cities still dysfunctional.

Shutting down the economy slowed the growth in many sectors, with MSMEs especially hard hit. The print industry, which falls in the MSME sector, has seen a considerable slowdown. With businesses at a standstill resulting in a further liquidity crisis, the payment of wages during lockdown became contentious. This was compounded by the order passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005 dated 29 March 2020, directing employers to pay the wages to their workers for the lockdown period, leading to chaos.

This order was challenged in the Supreme Court by several organizations since there has been confusion regarding employers’ responsibility to pay wages of their employees during the lockdown period. Subsequently, through the interim order of 4 June 2020, it was announced that no coercive action would be taken against employers.

The 24 June webinar moderated by Uday Dhote, director – DIGC, started with a brief presentation offering a detailed genesis of the order and touching upon its salient features, followed by Q&A session. The webinar saw participants from across India — mostly owners and promoters and human resources professionals.

Since the interim order is advisory, with the final judgment expected in end-July, DIGC has promised the participants another session on the subject.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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