Lincoln mill may be able to avoid layoffs, looking for replacement boiler, says union rep

Lincoln Pulp and Paper, in Lincoln
Lincoln Pulp and Paper, in Lincoln Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 06, 2013, at 6:55 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC managers are seeking a portable boiler to replace one that exploded last weekend and are working with the mill’s sole union to prevent temporary layoffs, the union representative said Wednesday.

Duane Lugdon, who helps paper mill unions negotiate contracts as the United Steelworkers union’s international representative in Maine, said both sides are working to keep layoffs at a minimum. He praised mill leaders for several positions already saved.

No one has estimated how many layoffs might occur. Mill co-owner Keith Van Scotter and Bill Peterson, the mill’s personnel director and spokesman, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

“We continue to work with management. We are thinking they have the right people coming in to assess the situation,” Lugdon said. “They are working with us as cooperatively as they can.”

The Katahdin Avenue mill’s three tissue machines were restarted Sunday after the mill’s recovery boiler exploded Saturday morning. No one was injured. The recovery boiler burns or recycled leftover chemicals and materials generated by the pulping process, company officials have said.

The mill’s two paper machines remain idle. Van Scotter and Peterson have said they hope that they can restart at least one machine shortly. The mill makes tissue for party goods and medical uses, plus paper for file folders, envelopes and reply cards.

The mill employs about 400 people, according to its website, www.lpt.com. Local 386 of the USW has 385 members who work at the mill.

Van Scotter has said the recovery boiler burns dissolved lignin — the chemical that binds pulp fibers during the paper- and tissue-making process — and recovers chemicals used to make paper. Boiler water temperatures typically rise to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

The boiler, he has said, is about 40 years old, making it a somewhat older model by industry standards. It was significantly refitted about eight years ago and underwent its annual maintenance within the last few weeks, he said.

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