April 30 last day for 106 IP workers

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, March 9, 2010

FRANKLIN, Va. – International Paper Co. has announced that it will trim more than 100 jobs from the Franklin mill’s workforce on April 30, just days after the company plans to shut down the last two paper machines at the mill.

IP sent a letter dated Feb. 26 to City of Franklin and Isle of Wight County (Va.) officials in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

According to the letter, IP plans to shut down the Nos. 4 and 5 paper machines on April 15. The company will then terminate 106 employees on April 30.

Of those, 51 are paper mill employees, 30 are in fibers general operations and 19 work at the fibers recycling plant. Another four workers are in the roll finishing department and two are in the fibers wood yard.

“It is possible for that date to change, but barring something unforeseen April 15 will be the final day of operation for the No. 4 and No. 5 paper machines,” said Franklin Mill Manager Ted Lewellyn.

All of the affected workers belong to one of three unions at the mill. IP said that of the 106 workers to be let go on April 30, 55 are members of Local 1488 of the United Steelworkers of America and 51 are with Local 505 of the United Steelworkers of America.

The third union at the mill is Chapter 176 of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32BJ/SEIU.

According to Franklin Mill Communications Manager Desmond Stills, the majority of the workforce at the mill will be released sometime between April 15 and June 30.

“During that time, employees will work to secure and preserve equipment and to process and ship out the remaining inventories of paper at the mill,” Stills said.

Previous reports indicated that groups of IP employees would be laid off about every two weeks beginning with 19 workers on April 4. Most of the mill workers will reportedly be gone by July 1.

Carroll Story, president of Local 1488 of the United Steelworkers of America, said earlier this month that there are currently about 700 hourly and 110 salaried workers at the mill. He said a large group, perhaps 300 workers or more, would be laid off in mid-May about one month after the paper machines are shut down.

About another 250 workers would be retained for the converting, roll finishing and sheet finishing processes at the mill and would be among the last jobs phased out, Story said at the time.

IP announced Oct. 22 that it would close the Franklin mill as part of a strategy of reducing production capacity. The company shut down the No. 6 paper machine at the mill on Nov. 9 and the No. 1 paper machine at the end of 2009.

(Charlie Passut is a Staff Writer for the Tidewater News in Franklin, Va., a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)