(Host) The state is taking action against the owners of a Gilman, Vermont paper mill. The Vermont Department of Labor and Industry on Friday ordered the American Paper Company to pay employees back wages. The Department is also threatening to take further action against the company for failure to carry workers compensation insurance.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) When the 115 workers at the Northeast Kingdom mill were laid off last week, they went home without paychecks. The plant’s managers said there was no money. The workers had hoped the plant would reopen this week. But the company that operates the mill has so far failed to reach an agreement with the plant’s owners, the American Paper Company.
Vermont Commissioner of Labor and Industry Tasha Wallace says the state isn’t waiting for the mill to reopen. Wallace says American Paper owes it’s employees about $77,000 in back wages:
(Wallace) "We, this morning, served an order to the company to pay double that directly to the Department. Once that is paid by the company, the employees will receive one and a half times what they were due and the rest will go to the Department for administrative costs."
(Zind) Wallace says the company has until Tuesday to comply with the order. Wallace also says American Paper has failed to respond to her Department’s demand that it secure workers compensation insurance. She says she anticipates the state will take further action, which could include preventing the plant from reopening.
Ron Pickering is with the union that represents the millworkers. He says it would be ironic if the plant reopened only to be shut down by the state because of the worker’s compensation issue, but he supports the state’s actions. He says he’s concerned the plant’s mounting financial problems could result in it being closed for good:
(Pickering) "I think the threat is very serious. If they don’t have worker’s compensation that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back because I believe the state may take some action as early as Monday."
(Zind) The problems with pay and workers compensation are the latest in a succession of complaints filed by workers at the Gilman Plant. Many of the difficulties stem from the bankruptcy last year of the mill’s former owner, the American Tissue Company.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.