One of three tissue-making machines will be shut down and 20 to 25 workers laid off indefinitely at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC within the next few days, officials said Monday.
Maine Department of Labor Rapid Response team members got word Monday of the pending layoffs. They will schedule a meeting with the laid-off workers within a few days, said Julie Rabinowitz, department spokeswoman.
“We don’t want to make any assumptions along the way, but from what we were told it, would be an indefinite layoff,” said Duane Lugdon, a staff representative whose United Steelworkers Union represents most of the approximately 215 workers the mill employs.
Senior workers targeted by the shutdown of the No. 6 machine will have the first chance at keeping their jobs through reassignment, Lugdon said. The bumping process, as it is called, usually takes a few days.
Mill co-owner Keith Van Scotter declined to comment Monday on the mill’s plans.
Lincoln Paper and Tissue produces an estimated 200 tons of tissue per day with its three machines. It advertises itself as the largest producer of deep-dyed tissue in the United States. Its tissue products are used by many of the nation’s party goods producers, airlines and food service companies to create napkins, towels, table covers and other specialty products.
It also manufactures specialty tissue stock for health care products such as medical draping, disposable gowns and beauticians neck strips, and for industrial applications including electrical tissue, according to its website, lpt.com.
The layoffs, Lugdon said, might be caused by “some overproduction” in the tissue market nationwide.
The last reported layoffs at the mill came about a month after a smelt water explosion in a chemical recovery boiler in November 2013. The destruction of the boiler forced the layoff ultimately of about 185 millworkers, ended paper production at the facility, and forced the mill to buy pulp from off-site sources. The loss of a major customer also influenced the decision, officials said.
About 15 of the original layoffs forced by the explosion were hired back, state officials estimated.
The mill sometimes halts production for maintenance and backlog management. A 10-day shutdown occurred in September 2014 with management having “sent people home,” Van Scotter said at the time.
More recently, Lincoln Paper finished nearly $10 million in internal improvements with the startup of a new $6 million turbine and condenser system in February.
The move is another blow to the paper industry in Maine. Verso Paper Corp. recently announced plans to lay off of 300 workers at its Jay mill. Verso closed its Bucksport mill and put 500 people out of work in December.