New IP workers could be represented by union

Published 9:40 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

FRANKLIN—International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill could remain a union shop when it reopens as a fluff pulp mill next year, according to the United Steelworkers Union.

USW International Vice President Jon Geenen said Wednesday workers in production, manufacturing and maintenance positions could be unionized when the facility hires 213 employees and begins operations in mid-2012.

“Conditions will be comparable to the conditions employees worked under previously,” Gennen said.

Local union President Carroll Story said union officials would have to meet with International Paper officials since the previous contract between IP and USW expired when the plant closed last June 30. Both Story and Geenen are confident a new agreement will be reached.

“We had a good working relationship,” Story said. “I don’t think there would be any problem with the union coming back in.”

Story and Geenen would not discuss a possible wage scale but said it would include some of the highest wages in the city and state.

IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said that while union representation at the facility has yet to be determined, “International Paper will work with the unions which represented our Franklin employees (previously).”

A deal could be made under guidelines that apply to all International Paper mills ratified this month by USW International as well as local guidelines, but the facility has not been brought in under either agreement yet, said USW spokesman Lynne Baker.

Gov. Bob McDonnell approved a $350,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist Isle of Wight County in securing the project.

Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities.