Workers get details about severances

Published 11:48 am Saturday, November 14, 2009

FRANKLIN—Union officials held two informational meetings with their members at the Franklin mill on Friday, providing details on of three days of effects bargaining negotiations with International Paper Co.

“There was somberness, but people wanted to know information,” Carroll Story, president of Local 1488 of the United Steelworkers of America, said Friday of the meetings. “People were very appreciative of the package that we negotiated.”

Story added, “We gave everybody some understanding of the monetary value of the package, so they can make a decision on what their next step in life will be.”

Cedric Bryant, president of Chapter 176 of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32BJ/SEIU, added that during the meetings “there were a lot of questions. What makes it difficult is that everyone’s situation is different.”

Union officials scheduled several informational meetings to accommodate their members’ different shifts at the mill. The first meeting was held at the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center on Thursday night. Friday’s meetings at the mill were reportedly held at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Story said that he would be at the mill on Saturday to meet with additional union members. Bryant said a fourth informational meeting would be held at the mill on Saturday morning.

“There are still a few people we haven’t met with yet,” Bryant said. “We’re hoping to see them on Saturday.”

Story and Bryant said many questions were asked about pensions.

“We spent a great deal of time explaining pension benefits, what (the members’) options are, and what the local, state and federal government can provide for them,” Story said.

According to Story, 321 mill workers are eligible for an early pension plan because they are at least 50-years-old and have at least 20 years of service.

“The groups from 40 and above knew our pension, but we thought we wouldn’t have to utilize it until some later part in life,” Story said, adding that IP’s announcement on Oct. 22 that it plans to close the mill by spring “changed all that.”

On Thursday, Bryant said the formula for determining the amount of severance pay was roughly 1.5 weeks, multiplied by 42 hours a week, multiplied by the rate of pay, multiplied by years of service.

IP plans to terminate 166 hourly employees on Dec. 31, one day after it plans to shut down the No. 1 paper machine. Of those 166 workers, 76 are members of Local 1488, 28 are with Local 32BJ/SEIU, and 62 belong to a third union at the mill, Local 505 of the United Steelworkers of America.

Another 770 hourly and 187 salaried employees will remain employed at the mill until the spring, when the Nos. 4 and 5 machines will be shut down.