Layoffs at IP take effect on Monday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2001

NATCHEZ – With most employees opting for &uot;voluntary separation,&uot; layoffs of more than 100 hourly workers at International Paper’s Natchez mill will take place by Monday, company spokesperson Luther Dangerfield said Friday in a written statement.

The mill, which is still for sale by International Paper Co., announced the layoffs in October. At that time the company said the layoffs would go into effect by the end of the year.

After the announcement, mill employees voted in favor of an enhanced severance package and were given several weeks to decide if they wanted to leave the mill voluntarily under this agreement.

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Of the employees to be laid off, 93 opted for voluntary separation, Dangerfield said.

Nine production employees will be involuntarily separated, or layed off, from the company by Monday, Dangerfield said.

This number does not include a handful of other production employees currently filling spots for senior employees on sick leave.

&uot;That number fluctuates,&uot; Dangerfield said. &uot;It doesn’t stay the same all the time.&uot;

When those sick employees return to work, those people holding their positions will be separated from the company, Dangerfield said.

No one will be involuntarily separated from the maintenance department because such a large number of those employees opted for take the voluntary severance package, Dangerfield said.

Monty Payne, international representative for the Paper, Allied, Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), the largest of seven unions at the mill, would not give details of the severance agreement but said it was equal to or in some cases larger than packages offered at other locations.

Under the circumstances, he considers the agreement a good alternative for the employees.

&uot;The fact was they were going to cut the jobs one way or another,&uot; Payne said.

In October, the company announced plans to lay off 131 union employees to include 89 production workers and 42 skilled maintenance workers.

These numbers did not include the elimination of 45 vacant positions or the elimination. It also did not include the elimination of 11 salaried administrative support positions.

The salaried workers have already left the mill, Dangerfield said.

The unions at the mill include three locals of PACE, two of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and one each of the International Association of Machinists and the International Union of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.

Employees affected by the layoffs could attend seminars on unemployment benefits through the Mississippi and Louisiana Employment Security Offices and attend workshops on job searching, Dangerfield said.

Payne said union officials are also assisting affected employees with their job search through their contacts with other union locals.