NewPage mill to lay off 120 workers for a week, but salaried workers spared

The Newpage paper mill in Rumford
The Newpage paper mill in Rumford Buy Photo
Posted June 12, 2013, at 8:14 a.m.

RUMFORD — NewPage paper company will temporarily lay off about 120 hourly maintenance workers next week, mill spokesman Anthony Lyons said Tuesday.

Lyons said the layoffs are a “cost-containment and money-saving” move. The workers would be off the job from June 17 to June 24.

Ron Hemingway, president of the Local 900 United Steelworkers, said those being laid off are all hourly employees with the union, not salaried workers.

“One of the issues we all had was that none of the salaried workers at the mill are being laid off,” Hemingway said. “When they first told us that we’d be laid off for a week, we were thinking, ‘OK, that sounds reasonable. Shut us down for a week to save the mill,’ but then I asked them how many salaried people were going out the door and they told us, ‘None.’”

“We’ve been through this before, too,” Hemingway said.

A couple of years ago, the company idled some of its paper machines at Rumford Paper Co., temporarily laying off between 50 and 300 workers.

The latest layoffs come four months after NewPage cut 5 percent of its workforce nationwide. The cuts resulted in nearly four dozen mill workers from the Rumford mill losing their jobs.

The mill employs about 850 people, including hourly and salaried personnel, Hemingway said.

“I don’t want to see anybody laid off, but this is an opportunity to lay off salaried workers to save money, but management doesn’t seem to want to do that,” he said.

Hemingway said mill management told him salaried workers could not be laid off because they are paid every two weeks.

However, he said someone told him that salaried workers could be laid off.

“When the maintenance workers are gone, our supervisors are left with nothing to do,” Hemingway said.

Among those being laid off next week are machinists, welders and general construction workers, he said.

“Look, we all want the mill to survive,” Hemingway said, “but we should all be willing to take the hit. I’m sure our front-line supervisors wouldn’t mind taking a week off to save money, but management just isn’t asking them to do it.”

Hemingway said that though the layoffs are temporary, he was told it could happen again in the coming months.

In September 2012, NewPage filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and emerged from it in December 2012 after securing financing led by Goldman Sachs Lending Partners of a $500 million loan plus $350 million in revolving credit led by J.P. Morgan Stanley Securities.

NewPage is the leading producer of printing and specialty papers in North America with $3.5 billion in net sales for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011. It is headquartered in Miamisburg, Ohio, and owns paper mills in Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. These mills have a total annual production capacity of about 3.5 million tons of paper.

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