IP announces further downsizing

Published 8:02 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FRANKLIN — International Paper Co. has identified 50 more jobs for elimination at its Franklin mill, adding to the 50 that will be affected by the permanent shutdown of an envelope-making machine.

Mill officials announced the additional reductions Wednesday evening, a few hours after saying they have offered voluntary severance packages to all of the mill’s 1,050 hourly employees. Officials hope enough employees take advantage of the offer to allow those whose jobs are being eliminated to work elsewhere in the plant if they wish.

“We opened up the severance packages to the entire work force so that we could identify who may want to pursue other career goals or career paths or interests,” said Desmond Stills, the mill’s communications manager. “We would be interested in taking a look at the opportunities for them to receive severance packages. Hopefully we would have enough volunteers so that nobody would leave here involuntarily.”

The company said last week that it would shut down the mill’s No. 3 uncoated freesheet machine, which makes envelope paper. That shutdown on Sunday will affect 50 of the 1,200 jobs at the mill. Fifty more positions, spread throughout the mill, have since been identified for elimination, Stills said Wednesday night.

“Our main concern is for our employees and their families,” Jeannine Siembida, the mill’s manager, said in a written statement. “To ease the transition as we shut down our No. 3 paper machine, we have agreed with the union to offer voluntary severance packages to employees.”

Stills said the deadline for applying for the severance package is Dec. 8. Interested employees must submit their paperwork submitted to the mill’s human resources office by that date, Stills said. He declined to reveal specific details about the severance packages.

“It’s a bad situation now,” said Carroll Story, president of Local 1488 of the United Steelworkers of America. “We have negotiated (severance) packages, but they’re entirely up to the employees, to make that decision, whether they want them or not.”

Local 1488, which Story said had between 650 and 700 members, is one of three unions at the mill. The other two are Local 505 of the United Steelworkers of America, and Chapter 176 of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32BJ/SEIU.

“It’s a tough time,” Story said. “We’re going to work our way through this process. And the union’s goal is to protect as many employees as we can. The economics is what has put us into this situation.

Company officials said the permanent shutdown of the No. 3 machine will reduce the company’s annual paper production capacity by approximately 150,000 tons, or 16 percent, to 750,000 tons. The shutdown was due to a decline in demand, officials said.