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Sappi cuts hit mostly open positions

Sappi Fine Paper North America, which owns and operates the Cloquet paper mill, says it will eliminate 110 salaried and hourly positions across all of its North American operations, a roughly 5 percent reduction in its workforce.

About 80 of those positions already are vacant and the other 30 will be reduced through attrition and other openings.

The company said it will not release details on what positions are affected at specific sites. But local union officials said the Cloquet mill, which employs about 700 people, will lose 27 hourly positions, apparently all of which already are unfilled, said Brady Nelson, United Steelworkers Local 11-63 president.

“The company assured us that those would be done through attrition, so nobody’s going to get laid off,” Nelson said, adding that unions representing local workers would begin “effects bargaining” over details of the eliminated positions sometime soon. Nelson said union committee members were told about the cuts at a Wednesday morning meeting with Mike Schultz, mill manager.

The Cloquet mill produces pulp for both its paper production and for a new cellulose product that can be made into rayon for the textiles industry.

The company said it was eliminating the positions “in response to a challenging market environment” for paper products.

“Reducing our salaried and hourly workforce was an extremely difficult decision but one necessary to reduce cost, remain competitive, and support our ability to deliver against Sappi’s long-term strategic initiatives, while continuing to meet the needs of our customers,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to our workforce and the community at all of our facilities and will continue to selectively hire and provide training and scholarship assistance to new talent seeking a rewarding career in the paper industry.”

In addition to Cloquet, South African-based Sappi has mills in Skowhegan and Westbrook in Maine and a North American headquarters in Boston. The company also has a facility in South Portland, Maine, that houses Inside Sales and a Technology Center in Westbrook.