Don't give up too much to save the mill
To the Editor:
I think the Town of Rumford needs to use a little caution in the recent request by the Rumford NewPage paper mill to lower its taxes and cut the town budget.
We are all very concerned about the future status of the Rumford Mill and whether it will still be running in the near future due to the economic stress in the paper market, too much supply, extreme competition and profitability that we need to survive. It appears to be prudent to try to help the mill survive by reducing the tax burden.
Naturally, all the citizens of Rumford must assume that management of the paper mill is doing everything it can internally to reduce cost, seeking all opportunity to examine headcount and spread the pain to whatever department or group of the facility that can help the mill be viewed from corporate as a healthy asset. Both unions and all workers in the mill have pitched in to do our part. Or have they?
Just last week both USW Local 900 and IBEW Local 2144 were officially notified in a meeting with top mill management that the day workers in the Maintenance and Electrical departments would be laid off for the week of June 17 because the mill is not doing as well as we should.
The machines are all running so most production workers will work, great for them as they have taken it on the chin several times already. At first glance, the layoff appeared reasonable. We all want the mill to survive and if this is what it takes, just do it. But then we asked how many of the salaried personnel would be laid off that we report to. The answer: none!
There is no conceivable reason why not. If they lay off those front line supervision and other support staff the mill could save another $50,000-$100,000! No we do not wish to see anyone laid off, but we want the mill to survive and the price to do this should be shared by everyone.
The Rumford community is expected to reduce the town budget. This could mean layoffs or terminations within the town departments like police, fire, town hall staff, and the road crew amongst others. This would cause a reduction in services provided to every citizen in Rumford.
So if every citizen in Rumford needs to take a hit for the good of the only major industry in Rumford to survive, wouldn’t you expect the mill and the salaried workforce to do the same? The Human Resources Department told us in a previous meeting when we raised the issue on laying off salaried along with us hourly workers that they cannot lay them off for a week because they are paid every two weeks.
I researched this by calling a labor attorney and people that work closely with the Maine Unemployment laws. The following quote is from Rufus Sames Labor Program Specialist at State of Maine: “Whether a person is laid off for a week or not has nothing to do with how they are paid. There is nothing within the Maine Employment Security Law that says that is someone is paid bi-weekly, that would restrict the employer from laying them off for a one week period.”
The Portland based Labor attorney I called also contacted a few officials and found the non-layoff salaried claim as preposterous! When management was confronted with this information, there was only silence.
How can we take the mill manager and other top Rumford Mill management serious when they claim they need all these cost cutting measures from everyone else, but they are unwilling to do the same? Are they really trying to save the mill or just line their own pockets?
I strongly expressed that they should feel shame for what they are doing. I am not sure they are capable. So beware Rumford before you give up too much to save the mill. The mill is not doing all it can to save itself.
President, USW Local 900,