THE first recorded print in South Africa dates back to 1784, when Johann Christiaan Ritter arrived in Cape Town with a small press. The first organised association of printers, the Associated Master Printers of the Cape, was formed in March 1911. Shortly thereafter, the formation of the Master Printers Association of Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Transvaal followed.
Matters concerning printers were the ongoing industrial action in the print industry resulting in two crippling strikes, the first in 1897 and the second more protracted strike in 1911. The South African Typographical Union (SATU) was concerned about workers’ rights and imported labour.
The early days of the Print Federation presented conflicts, especially between newspaper and commercial printers, threatening to tear the federation apart. However, by 1919, the Print Federation, the Newspaper Press Union and SATU formed the National Industrial Council (NIC) to improve labour relations.
The NIC remained in place for the next 70 years. This was later impacted by the changing political and labour landscape and the increasingly bureaucratic working rules placed on employers by the NIC agreement, the Print Federation gave notice to the other two parties of its intention to withdraw from the NIC.
In 1990, the federation changed its name to the Printing Industries Federation of South Africa (PIFSA), registered itself as an employer association and as a Section 21 non-profit company.
In 1991, SATU tried to force employers back to centralised bargaining but lost the legal case. While SATU member retirement benefits were retained, the proceeds from the disbandment of the NIC were awarded to PIFSA and the Newspaper Press Union. The Printing Industries Statutory Council was then formed as a dispute resolution and mediation body with PIFSA and SATU.
Using these NIC funds, PIFSA established the South African Printing College in 1993 to provide industry training. In 1996, government converted Industry Training Boards to Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), which changed the training landscape in South Africa. Unfortunately, after successfully training hundreds of apprentices in many trades aligned to the print industry, a combination of economics and lack of support from the SETAs, the Printing College was sold in 2009.
In the 1960s, letterpress machines were replaced by lithographic, web and flexo presses. This was followed by digital printers and photocopiers in the 1980s.
Now it’s high-speed printing on demand, 3D printing, wide-format printing and hybrid print processes with increased efficiency of digital print workflows on every conceivable substrate.
In 2014, Printing SA became a member of FESPA, bringing screen and digital printers that produce wide-format marketing materials into the fold.
In 2020, we embraced visual communications, bringing the prepress segment of graphic designers, typesetters, illustrators, and all related trades into the fold.
We now represent four inter-related sectors – printing, packaging, signage, and visual communications – the full value chain from pre- to post-press.
In 2018, industry association Idealliance predicted that commercial printing industry sales would grow by 3% over the next three years. However, the pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline in commercial printing, and even the demise of some long-standing magazines and newspapers due to advertising revenue diversion to other media and the general uptake of online platforms.
On the other hand, there has been a phenomenal increase in packaging due to demand in online sales and an increased demand for digital printing, with customers seeking print on demand, smaller volumes, and one-stop service for all their marketing needs.
In March 2021, Printing SA celebrated 110 years as the industry’s federation, which is testament to our ability to have transitioned with the times and into the future. We have numerous events scheduled to take place around the country, where we will be celebrating this milestone with our members, learners, non-members and stakeholders, including the Africa Print and FESPA Africa Expos. The annual conference and gala dinner are still on the cards for September, Covid-19 permitting. We also have a host of webinars, business networking forums, golf days, wellness days and more planned for the remainder
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