(Host) After months of struggling to keep operating, a Gilman Vermont paper plant has closed at least temporarily. Union officials say negotiations are underway between the plants owners and operators and the facility could reopen as early as midweek. Meanwhile, laid off workers stood outside the mill Monday to make sure no shipments left the plant.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) Millworkers say first they were laid off. Then they were told they wouldn’t be getting their final paychecks because there was no money. The layoffs last week idled about 115 workers.
Dave Aubin was part of a group of several dozen workers went to the plant Monday morning. Aubin says they wanted to make sure no shipments left the facility:
(Aubin) "Basically, we went out there just to make the point that we’re here. We want to know where our paychecks are. And to see if they were going to ship any paper out the door. If they’re going to ship any paper, then they ought to pay us."
(Zind) The troubles at the plant are the latest in a series of hardships stemming from the bankruptcy of American Tissue, Incorporated. When the industry giant collapsed last year, dozens of plants were closed, including mills in Gorham and Berlin, New Hampshire. Other plants were transferred to the American Paper Company.
Despite the fact American Paper and American Tissue are owned by the same people, the transfer created problems with employees health insurance and pension benefits. The union workers have filed several unfair labor practice charges against American Paper. The state says it’s also keeping an eye on the plant.
Labor and Industry Commissioner Tasha Wallace says many of the activities of American Paper fall under federal jurisdiction and the state has limited powers. Wallace says the state did recently fine American Paper for failing to carry worker’s compensation insurance.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.