MASARDIS, Maine — About 140 workers will return to work at the Fraser Timber Inc. sawmill on May 26 for an indefinite period as managers seek to cut wood left in the mill’s timber yards when the mill shut down in early January, a Fraser official said Wednesday.
“We have wood on the ground that has to be used,” said Bill Peterson, director of human resources for Fraser Papers. “Once you lay it down on the ground, it has a finite time before it has to be used or it dries out.”
Another 40 furloughed workers could have also returned to work but opted not to, citing their acquisition of other employment or their desire to continue schooling or job retraining that began when the mill shut down, Peterson said.
The mill will not hire another 40 workers as replacements.
“We will run a scaled-back operation,” Peterson said. “It will actually provide work for a longer period of time for those workers who have come back.”
Fraser Timber, a subsidiary of Fraser Papers Inc., owns sawmills in Ashland and Masardis. Fraser Papers owns a paper mill in Madawaska and manages paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket.
The Ashland and Masardis mills, which make building timbers, shut down at the beginning of the year due to low lumber prices caused by the weakened U.S. housing market and lumber imports. The duration of the closure has been determined by market conditions, mill officials said.
The Ashland mill will remain on furlough, as those conditions haven’t changed, Peterson said, though he hopes they will soon.
“We are in a position where it doesn’t make any sense to lose the lumber and to lose the chips,” Peterson said. “If the market starts to turn, we will be in a position where we can take advantage of it.”
An Ashland man, Alan Nason, 50, sued Fraser Timber and Fraser Papers in U.S. District Court in Bangor in late January, alleging that Fraser Timber violated federal law when it laid off Masardis’ workers on Jan. 2.
He alleged that Fraser Timber did not give employees 60 days’ written notice as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Fraser Timber has said the lawsuit has no merit and promised to fight the lawsuit vigorously.
It was unclear what impact the recall would have on the lawsuit.