September 17, 2008

Katahdin to Lay Off 9 More


MILLINOCKET - Another nine workers will be laid off by Friday at the paper mill on Katahdin Avenue as management continues the mill mothballing process, officials said Tuesday.

"It keeps shifting on us," said Glenn Saucier, the mill's Personnel Department director. "We keep finding more work with winterizing the facility."

Nine workers at Katahdin Paper Co. LLC's plant in Millinocket were laid off last week. Mill managers expect that as many as 208 will be laid off when the process culminates.

The layoffs are occurring gradually as workers prepare the Millinocket plant for an indefinite shutdown as part of the company's plans to convert it from burning oil to burning biomass. The mill might reopen in 2009 if biomass negotiations are fruitful.

Mill management and unions will finish retraining, mill cleanup and bumping - a union practice that allows workers with seniority to keep jobs ahead of less-senior workers - over the next several weeks. The unions and management are due to meet Wednesday to discuss the impact of the layoffs.

The retraining is part of management restructuring until the new boiler is operational, Saucier said.

The Maine Department of Labor has a worker posted at the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center off Route 157 in East Millinocket who can meet with laid-off workers at any time.

Mill parent company Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto announced May 29 that the Millinocket mill's prodigious oil use would force an indefinite shutdown and layoff of 208 workers if an alternative energy source were not found in 60 days.

Gov. John Baldacci intervened, the mill found energy savings and supportive customers, and the deadline was extended repeatedly. Brookfield was in talks with alternative energy providers on Aug. 26 when its officials ordered the Sept. 2 shutdown in a manner that Baldacci and the unions said was abrupt.

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