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Posted: Friday 30 April, 2010 at 8:32 AM

Reeds’ workers redundant after mass sell-out

By: VonDez Phipps,

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – A recent divestment of Reed Business Information (RBI) US has brought employment woes to the locally-based Reed Data Services, where many employees have been made redundant.


    Since July 2009, parent company Reed Elsevier announced that the RBI-US and other print titles, representing about 45 per cent of the revenues of RBI-US, were to be sold by the company.  Since then titles accounting for approximately two-thirds of the portfolio’s revenues have been sold in seven separate transactions.


    According to a press statement published by Reed Elsevier on April 16, a list of popular print titles, including Publishers Weekly, Interior Design, Casual Living, Design News and Packaging Digest were acquired throughout the last six months. The total divestment programme culminated two weeks ago with the closure of a long list of publishing operations of the unsold RBI-US controlled circulation titles.


    The divestment of those titles is said to have significantly downsized the operations in the St. Kitts and Nevis-based Reed Data Services, which has been in operation for about 22 years and employs roughly 200 individuals. While the number of employees to be made redundant has not been officially disclosed, as many as 50 are believed to have received redundancy letters in the last two weeks.


    The letter reads, “On December 31, we were advised that in the first half of 2010 position eliminations will be occurring as a result of the closure of unsold RBI-US publications. We have received notification from RBI-US that unsold publications were being closed with immediate effect.”


    One worker who was recently been handed her redundancy letter told this media house that she did not find the announcement surprising, adding that the workload was just too much for the department to deal with.


    “It was just too much stress; it was a great quantity of work that had to be done. Once we came off training, they expected us to reach their level with the quantity and quality of work. I felt they didn’t really give us a chance to make it up,” she said, adding that she hopes to be transferred to another division of the company.


    She said the departments of Product Services and e-Servicing in the Federation have since been closed, leaving only Reed Construction Data, and she expects more to be made redundant shortly.


    Speaking to SKNVibes, Reed Elsevier Director of Corporate Communications Patrick Kerr informed that the divestment was precipitated by the decline in advertising revenue for the controlled circulation titles. He revealed very little information pertaining to the local branch, but noted that the company will seek to have employees fill other positions in the remaining businesses where possible.


    “At various points in the course of the last 10 months, the US-controlled circulation businesses were divested through sales, buyouts or closures. On April 16, the divestment culminated.... Overall, I do not know how many persons will be affected and we are still in the process of double-checking roles to see if we can have transfers. But, even if we arrive at a final number, we will not be disclosing it,” Kerr said.


    No local company official was willing to comment on the matter.


    A number of titles were not part of the divestment process and were retained. These titles include Variety, Marketcast and 411 Publishing, the RCD (Reed Construction Data) businesses and the Buyerzone lead generation business. According to Kerr, the companies that were retained are all still “good, strong, profitable brands”.


    Going forward, Kerr explained that the company will seek to concentrate its efforts on the remaining businesses.


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