Contract to Expire at Maine Newsprint Mill

By: E&P Staff

After about three weeks, unions representing millworkers at Katahdin Paper Co. LLC, East Millinocket, Maine, ended talks for their first new contract in seven years to protect what one union official said was the right to negotiate changes in pension and health plans.

“We’ve taken a pause,” Duane Lugdon, Maine’s United Steelworkers Union international representative, told the Bangor Daily News. While benefits are negotiable, Lugdon said previous union negotiators allowed modification by mill management.

Reporter Nick Sambides quoted Katahdin Paper Human Resources Manager and lead negotiator Rick Grunthaler saying, “We are making good progress in the negotiations and we are optimistic we will be back to the tables soon to conclude them.”

The current contract expires on June 30.

Run by Twin Rivers Paper Co. (formerly Fraser Papers) for Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto, the mill’s approximately 450 workers produce directory paper and newsprint.

Lugdon told the Daily News that the unions also are looking for a successor clause that would preserve the union and its contract in the event the mill is sold again. The mill was the property of Bowater subsidiary Great Northern Paper until 1999, when it was acquired by Inexcon Maine. Katahdin Paper took over in 2003, after Inexcon shut down the mill.

The mill was the scene of a difficult fire last December, when up to 300 large bales of recovered newsprint were destroyed. The Daily News‘ Sambides reported at the time that the mill no longer had a fire brigade, and that its sprinklers did not activate until two hours after the fire had started.

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