Meridian Star

Local News

August 5, 2006

Georgia-Pacific to reduce staff in Pennington

MERIDIAN — Georgia-Pacific’s Naheola Paper Mill in Pennington, Ala., is asking for volunteers to leave the company as it reorganizes in an attempt to make itself more competitive, officials said.

Mill officials this week met with the plant’s 1,225 employees to discuss changes in the way work will be prioritized and scheduled.

“Georgia-Pacific is doing this all across the nation, not just at our mill,” Jennifer Minor, communications manager, said Friday. “It is more than reducing the workforce, it is changing the way work is done.”

Minor said Georgia-Pacific Corp. was bought by Kansas-based Koch Industries in December 2005, and the company promised to make quick changes at the Naheola Mill and at other Georgia-Pacific facilities. Minor said the workforce reduction is one facet of the company’s implementation of those changes.

She said “voluntary separation” packages will be offered to employees that fall into the affected areas at the mill. She would not say what those areas are.

She said the severance packages will go out sometime next week. The company’s hourly employees will have two weeks to make a decision, while salaried employees will have 45 days.

Not all employees will receive a package and terms of the severance packages were not released by the company.

She said 157 of the mill’s employees are from Mississippi, with 117 of those residing in Lauderdale County.

In a news release issued by the company on Friday, vice president and mill manager Kelvin Hill said he met with employees this week to inform them of the changes.

“The overall paper industry has not made adequate returns for investors, public or private, and there are many recent examples of industries that have not reacted to changes in the market successfully,” Hill said.

“We will not allow that to happen with our businesses. Capital improvements are under way at the Naheola Mill and additional capital investments in new technologies are planned to help move the mill to a more reliable operation and better leverage the knowledge and skills of the workforce.”

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