It’s no surprise to learn that printers, like all other employers, are doing what they can to rein in labor costs as the recession’s grip tightens. But, they appear to be making their cuts with more compassion than many. In a recent survey, Printing Industries of America found that nearly all (98%) respondents had taken at least one step to reduce payroll expenses. Of 23 possible actions, the four taken most often were limits on travel (67.2%), pay freezes (62.0%), overtime elimination (58.5%), and reductions in hours worked (52.4%). As alternatives to layoffs, says PIA, these belt-tighteners most likely are “the cuts companies make first because they have the least negative effect on employee morale.” Resorted to least were instituting early retirement programs (1.4%), cutting company wellness programs (3.3%), eliminating non-productive and non-profitable lines of business (8.7%). and cutting training not required by the government (9.4%). (The scarcity of cuts in wellness programs probably reflects the fact that most printing companies don’t have these programs in the first place, notes PIA). Only 9% of respondents have asked employees to take voluntary leaves of absence either as shortened work weeks or long-term furloughs. Nevertheless, at some companies, layoffs have been unavoidable: about 41% report terminating positions without expectation of recall. A smaller percentage (25%) say that those laid off could be called back. Of 424 participants, better than half (53%) are commercial sheetfed lithographers. Most (86%) employ 99 or fewer people. The smaller a company is, the harder it is to close ranks around the loss of even a single worker. PIA’s findings confirm that the industry’s small firms are protecting the livelihoods of their employees to the full extent that the profit-killing pressure of the downturn permits. We’d like to hear how your company is managing its labor costs and retaining its people in defiance of these odds. A preliminary version of the report, “Layoffs and Alternatives,” is available for download (PDF Link) from PIA.