MADAWASKA, Maine — A continuing lack of confirmed orders will force Fraser Papers’ Bridge Avenue mill to furlough 500 to 600 workers, its largest number of furloughs yet, for up to two weeks as the company works to improve its cash flow, officials said Monday.
By the end of next week, only 112 of the company’s 712 workers might be left to work two of the mill’s six papermaking machines, said Bill Peterson, the company’s director of human resources.
“This will all start sometime next week,” Peterson said Monday. “We anticipate having the machines back up by Monday, March 9.”
Fraser’s East Millinocket mill will continue its 28-day furlough of about 140 of its 491 workers that began Feb. 9, said Peterson, who is himself among those who will be temporarily out of work in Madawaska.
“It’s painful,” he said. “We will keep only the bare essentials here.”
Begun in late December, the new policy of running machines only with confirmed orders in hand is designed to help the specialty pack-aging and printing paper manufac-turer gird against the recession and fluctuating paper demand, company officials have said.
Before Monday’s announcement, company officials had expressed confidence that only two machines would be shut down simultaneously. The new shutdowns show just how unpredictable the national and international economies are for papermakers, Peterson said.
“Everybody is watching what’s going on out there in the economic environment and people are being a lot more prudent about what inventory they are carrying,” Peterson said.