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February 4, 2019

Millwrights at Sappi’s Skowhegan mill ratify three-year contract

Courtesy / Sappi North America
Courtesy / Sappi North America
Millwrights at Sappi North America Inc.’s Somerset Mill in Skowhegan have ratified a new three-year contract that gives them a 3% raise in the first year.

About Sappi North America Inc.

Sappi North America, headquartered in Boston, is a market leader in its four diversified businesses — high-quality coated printing papers, specialised cellulose, release papers and specialty packaging. It is a subsidiary of Sappi Limited (JSE), a global company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with more than 12,000 employees and manufacturing operations on three continents in seven countries and customers in over 150 countries around the world.

Millwrights at Sappi North America Inc.'s Somerset Mill in Skowhegan have ratified a new three-year contract that gives them a 3% raise in the first year.

Machinists Local 2740, which has 74 members, ratified the contract last Thursday evening after an earlier contract offer was unanimously rejected in a vote last week, after which the union then voted to authorize a strike. The union said in a news release that it went back to the bargaining table with Sappi and won significant improvements in the contract offered by the company.

The new three-year contract, which took effect on Feb. 1 and extends until Jan. 31, 2022, includes:

  • Wage increases of 3% in the first year, 2.25% in the second year and 2.5% in the third year.
  • An additional $1 contribution to the pension.
  • Improved dental, accident and safety insurance.

The union stated it also beat back provisions the company sought that would have weakened the grievance procedure around the overtime list.

"The members won this contract by standing strong together," Wes Perry, a millwright and president of Machinists Local 2740, said in a statement. "We won our fair share of the wealth we create for this company. It feels like a new day on the shop floor. Members are proud and feel the dignity of standing together."

George Edwards, district business representative for the Machinists union, added: "The members decided the first contract offer from the company was unacceptable. I'm proud of them for staying unified and sticking together to get what they deserve. They work hard, and they deserve to be treated fairly."

Sappi North America completed last fall a $200 million investment at the Somerset Mill that included rebuilding its Paper Machine 1, a yearlong project that is expected to boost its global competitiveness and increase the mill's annual production capacity by almost 1 million tons per year. In addition to the rebuilt paper machine, which adds new paperboard packaging grades to the Somerset Mill's capabilities, Sappi's $200 million investment included $25 million in improvements at the mill's wood yard to optimize its efficiency and reduce costs.

Sappi's Somerset Mill has about 725 employees, according to the company's website. Annual production at the mill is 790,000 metric tons of coated woodfree paper and 525,000 metric tons of bleached chemical pulp for own consumption and market pulp. End uses of the paper made there include magazines, catalogs, advertising brochures, direct mail, packaging and pulp.

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