Unions negotiate IP severance

Published 9:20 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

FRANKLIN — Following three days of negotiations between union leaders and International Paper Co. officials, mill workers now have a pretty good idea of what their severance packages will entail when the plant finally closes.

“(The negotiations) were tough,” said Carroll Story, president of Local 1488 of the United Steelworkers of America. “It was a very trying situation. I feel like we came out with the best deal we could for our members in this current environment.”

Cedric Bryant, president of Chapter 176 of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32BJ/SEIU, agreed that the negotiations were tough.

“We got the standard IP package for shutting down a mill, not any more and not any less,” Bryant said. “We felt like we deserved a little bit more.”

Bryant said the formula for determining the amount of severance pay was roughly 1.5 weeks, multiplied by 42 hours a week, multiplied by the rate of pay, multiplied by years of service.

Compensation for unused vacation time was a major issue during the negotiations, according to union officials

“Vacation was a very sensitive issue,” Story said. Said Bryant: “We had to work very hard for that.”

Story declined to provide details on the vacation compensation until all union members are notified.

A third union, Local 505 of the United Steelworkers of America, was also involved in the negotiations.

“Under the circumstances, I think we were able to obtain a very fair package for our membership,” the union official said. “We definitely didn’t get everything we asked for, (but) in my opinion I think we obtained a very fair package.”

Other issues discussed during the bargaining sessions included insurance, contractual items and the retiree savings plan.

Story and Bryant said the negotiations were held at the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center and that 24 union representatives, including two from the international unions, negotiated with four IP officials, including Franklin Mill Manager Jeannine Siembida.

“We had some good people in the negotiating team,” Bryant said. “We did all that we could do to get what we could. I feel like we didn’t leave a whole lot on the table for what we could have got.”

Following Thursday’s negotiations, union leaders met with 400 to 450 members at the Workforce Development Center.

Two additional informational meetings were scheduled for Friday at the mill.