June 26, 2008

Halsey Mill is Rehiring Employees

By Amy Hsuan, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

Jun. 25--Seven weeks after Oregon's oldest forest products company closed its doors, workers left unemployed by the Pope & Talbot bankruptcy will return to work at the Halsey mill starting this week.

By Tuesday, more than half of the 180 workers displaced by the mill's closure last month said they intended to go back, said Leon Harlson, the mill's former union president.

The rehiring of the workers could require the mill's new owners, the Minnesota-based investment firm Wayzata Investment Partners, to recognize the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which had existing labor contracts at the mill.

The new owners did not recognize the two unions when it began to rehire workers last week.

Some workers were wary of returning to work at the mill without a contract, Harlson said. Applicants were offered about 85 percent of what they had earned previously in the same positions. And for the first year, workers would have only one week of vacation with a maximum of four. Previously, workers had up to seven weeks of vacation.

With more than half of the workers going back, though, the company will have to negotiate, said Ernie Lamoureux, a staff representative of the steelworkers union, which represents 140 workers.

"We'll be contacting the company to demand recognition," Lamoureux said.

Wayzata Investment Partners won ownership of the mill for $31.2 million in an auction June 16. The firm closed on the sale Friday afternoon and is operating the mill under the name of Cascade Pacific Pulp.

George Miller, the U.S. trustee overseeing Pope & Talbot's liquidation, said the mill would be running as soon as possible.

"They have customers waiting for their products," Miller said Tuesday. "They are not going to dilly and dally. It was a profitable operation before it was slowed down, and they expect it to be a profitable operation as soon as possible."


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