ATC workers still waiting on severance

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, December 22, 2012


FRANKLIN—William Ward knows three former co-workers who died while waiting to receive severances from ATC Panels in Franklin.

So the 59-year-old isn’t holding his breathe for the $28,000 he was promised three years ago.

“I think they’re a bunch of Chilean crooks,” Ward said Friday. “It’s a shame this country will allow someone to come in and belittle a labor agreement and not honor it.”

The United Steelworkers of America won the severances for the 38 employees after taking ATC Panels — based in Chile — to federal arbitration, Sam Penn, international staff representative with USW in Hampton, said Friday. The company has refused to pay the $445,000.

The union has filed a lien on the company’s property in southern Isle of Wight County.

“If they (ATC Panels) ever go out of business and try to sell their property, we can get the money,” Penn said.

The plant produced particleboard used for making furniture, cabinets and the like. At its height, ATC employed more than 130 people, but workforce cuts began several years before its closing in 2009.

The plant, which used to be owned by Union Camp Corp., changed hands several times after International Paper bought all of Union Camp’s assets. The particleboard plant was sold to Aconcagua Holdings BVI, a company formed in May 2004 by Chilean investors.

During arbitration, the company claimed the plant remained open because it had three employees — two security guards and an office, Penn said.

ATC Panels could not be reached.

In the meantime, Ward continues to look for work. The Franklin-area man did some seasonal work for Cost Plus World Market in Windsor and hopes to get on with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Windsor.