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Franklin mill faces 2-week shutdown

FRANKLIN, Va. — International Paper Co. told employees Wednesday that the Franklin mill will be idled for two weeks in March due to a lack of orders. All four paper machines at the mill will be closed March 16-29. Wednesday’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the company said it would shut down the mill’s No. 1 and No. 5 paper machines for the weeks of Feb. 16 and March 16 and the No. 1 machine during the week of March 9. The company will also shut down the adjacent sawmill, affecting 100 workers there. Communications Manager Desmond Stills said the sawmill’s closure “would be in conjunction with the paper mill being down.” The sawmill will also be closed on March 12 and 13. Stills said the paper mill would be “operating with a minimal crew” during the downtime. “Due to a slowdown in orders for our products, we are announcing lack-of-order downtime,” Mill Manager Jeannine Siembida said in a written statement. “Our company is committed to managing our supply to meet the needs of our customers, including making adjustments for how our order book continues to develop.” Stills said department managers had meetings with their employees on Wednesday afternoon to deliver the news to day shift and 3-11 p.m. workers. Those working other shifts were called at home. A decision hasn’t been made on whether salaried workers would be affected by the downtime, Stills said. “We understand this announcement will create uncertainty for employees, their families and the communities in and around Franklin,” Siembida said. “We will do all we can to assist them with any questions or concerns that arise.” Stills said employees would be able to file for unemployment benefits during the downtime. The paper mill employs about 1,100 hourly and salaried workers. (Charlie Passut is a Staff Writer with the Tidewater News in Franklin, Va., a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)