In 1926 many printers in Singapore began to experience labour problems following a general strike in the United Kingdom. This prompted several of the printing companies to meet and explore the possibilities of forming an Association to protect their interests, however due to a lack of consensus and trust among the printers this initiative fizzled out.
In December 1936, the workers of nine printing companies went on strike after serving an ultimatum to their employers seeking higher pay and better working conditions. The strike injected a sense of urgency on the printing companies to form an Association able to represent and protect their interests by speaking with one voice.
After a series of meetings, 32 printing companies decided to form an Association. The new Association to represent the printing companies was named the Master Printers Association, Singapore. Membership was open to all printing companies in Singapore.
The constitution provided for collective bargaining between the printing companies and their workers. As a result of the formation of the Master Printers Association, Singapore, the strike was settled amicably after formal negotiations between the affected parties. This gave a big boost to the Association, and more printing companies agreed to become members.
The formation of the Master Printers Association, Singapore provided the opportunity for the printing fraternity to interact further and establish greater camaraderie. During the period before the official launch of the Association, regular meetings were held at the Ann Kuay Huay Kuan in Hokkien Street.
The Master Printers Association, Singapore was officially launched on August 27th 1937. The first President was Mr. Seow Peck Heng, Managing Partner of Lam Yeong Press. The other Office-Bearers were: Vice-President, Mr. Wong Lin Kwong of Tien Wah Press; Honorary Secretary, Mr. Wong Tien Choh of Phu Yik and Co; and Honorary Treasurer, Mr. Wong Choon Sek of Koh Yew Hean Eng Kee Press. Henceforth an Annual Gala Dinner was held every year to commemorate the founding of the Association.
1938 to 1942
During the immediate pre-war years the existence of the Association resulted in greater interaction among the printing fraternity in Singapore. The previous atmosphere of mistrust was eliminated bringing in a new era of cooperation for the common good.
The machinery for collective bargaining within the Association enabled the printing companies to enjoy industrial peace with none of the bitterness and strife with workers which was common in the past. This contributed to the growth and prosperity of the printing industry in Singapore.
After the outbreak of World War 11 in Europe in 1939, the local printers experienced great difficulty in securing the supply of paper for their needs. The Association launched an effort to secure the supply of paper for the local printers.
The Association stopped operating after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in February 1942.
After the liberation of Singapore in August 1945, the members re-activated the Association in September 1945. This event was celebrated with a gala dinner. The local printers bounced back fairly quickly after the long hiatus during the war years.
In 1950, the Association was re-registered as an Employers Trade Union under the Train Union Ordinance. This confirmed that the main role of the Association was to protect the interest of member firms by engaging in collective bargaining with employees. Membership was confined to the local Chinese printing companies.
1951 – 1960
With the growth of the economy in the fifties, the printing industry also grew in tandem. Membership expanded with most of the printing companies with printing presses joining as members of the Association.
In 1956 the Association amended its constitution to enable suppliers who provided equipment and consumables to join as associate members. The suppliers had a separate Committee to look after their needs under the umbrella of the Management Committee. This expanded the membership even further and resulted in greater interaction between printers and suppliers.
1961 TO 1970
During the sixties membership rose to over 100 companies. The constitution was amended again in 1968 to admit all printing companies to join as members and not confining membership to the Chinese printing companies only. As a result of this change, most of the larger printing companies joined the fold. In 1960 two non-Chinese were elected to the Management Committee for the first time. The Association now took on the role of the national representative body for the printing industry in Singapore.
With the rapid development of the Singapore economy, the printing industry began to experience difficulty in recruiting workers. School-leavers were shunning the printing industry as it had a poor image – being considered as a tough shop-floor type working environment.
After strong lobbying by the Association, a School of Printing was set up under the then Vocational and Industrial Training Board in 1979 to train the skilled workers needed by the printing industry. This was an important milestone for the Association as it would address the challenge of attracting school-leavers to take up careers in the printing industry.
1970 also saw the introduction of Honorary Life Memberships to honour persons who had contributed substantially to the progress of the Association and the printing industry in Singapore. The first recipient of the award was Mr. Wong Tien Choh, the first Honorary Secretary of the Association with nearly 30 years of service in the Management Committee.
In 1972, Mr. Eric Mortimer was elected as the first non-Chinese President of the Association and served for three years.
In 1974 an apprentice training scheme was introduced in conjunction with the Vocational & Industrial Training Board. This resulted in more school-leavers joining the printing industry despite the keen competition from other industries.
In 1977 the Association’s newsletter was upgraded with the launch of a bi-monthly magazine called the Singapore Printer. The aim of the new publication was to increase communication with members and the printing industry at large. The new publication also placed great emphasis on the technological changes that were taking place.
An annual publication using a directory format was also introduced at year-end to complement the bi-monthly Singapore Printer. The Annual provided more technical information, articles of interest to the printing industry and a full listing of members highlighting the services/products that they provide.
Both publications also provided the opportunity for companies to advertise their products and services. The advertisements provided badly needed revenue for the Association. Members fully supported the Association by advertising in both publications.
In 1978, the Association hosted and organised the 1st World Print Congress which was held in Singapore. The congress attracted 400 delegates from nearly 300 delegates. The successful hosting of the World Print Congress 1978 marked the coming of age of the Association and increasing importance of the printing industry in the Singapore economy.
Another very important milestone was achieved in 1979 with the appointment of a full-time Executive Director to head the Association’s Secretariat.
A decision was also made to purchase premises to house the Association’s Secretariat. A building fund was set up to raise funds to buy the premises. In 1984 a 1300 square feet office premises was purchased in the Association Building at Lorong 16, Geylang. The Association’s new premises was officially opened on 21st July 1984 by Major Fong Sip Chee, the Minister of State for Culture.
In 1991 the Constitution was amended to do away with the arrangement to have separate Committees for printers and suppliers. Under the changes all members would enjoy equal status with similar voting rights. All members were now eligible to serve in the Management Committee. There was an understanding that printers would occupy the top positions in the Management Committee.
In 1999 the Constitution was amended so that printing companies employing less than 50 staff would only pay half of the normal entrance and subscription fees. In addition two members of the Management Committee must be from the smaller printers with less than 50 staff. The purpose of this change was to encourage the smaller printing companies to sign up as members.
In 2000 the members voted to change the name of the Association to the Print & Media Association, Singapore. The aim was to better reflect the technological changes which had totally transformed the printing industry.
In 2005, the bi-monthly Singapore Printer publication was revamped and re-named as PRINT Singapore. A separate Singapore Printing Industry Directory was launched. The Directory provided comprehensive information about the printing industry in Singapore. This included listing of all printers in Singapore by category. The Directory was widely circulated to the local printing industry and print buyers both local and overseas.
In recent years the Association has enhanced the level of communication with members through the PRINT Singapore publication, the website and e-mail. More networking events and seminars are organised for the benefits. This includes an annual Print Conference which provides the opportunity for technical updating. Annual study tours are also organised to overseas destinations for members to learn from successful printers and equipment manufacturers. Overseas study tours have been organised to Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland and Britain.
Very close rapport has been established with SPRING Singapore and other relevant Government bodies like e2i, SWDA and IDA in order to protect the interests of the printing industry and to bring the printing industry forward. Regular dialogue sessions have been held to provide feedback on the challenges facing the printing industry in Singapore. The Association in turn disseminates information about the various Government support schemes to the business sector especially SME’s.
The Association continues to be true to the values dating back its founding in 1937. It actively protects and promotes the interests of members and to ensure that the printing industry continue to be viable and prosperous.