Domtar cuts 185 positions

Published 1:54 am Friday, February 6, 2009

By Staff
Move at Plymouth plant could affect logging industry in region
Staff Writer
The consequence of shutting down a single paper-making machine at Domtar’s plant near Plymouth could stretch far and wide, according to Washington County officials.
Domtar Corp. announced Thursday it will shut down one of two paper-making machines at the plant, resulting in the loss of 185 jobs. The layoffs go into effect at the end of the month.
Shutting down the machine could have a trickle-down effect on the logging industry in the county and eastern North Carolina as a whole, said Billy Corey, chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and owner of Tim-Con Wood Products.
Corey said the news struck him hard.
Corey said it’s too early to gauge what kind of effect the move by Domtar will have on the local logging industry.
With the shutdown, the plant will see a lot less wood coming to its mill, Corey said.
The reduction in paper-making at the plant will be permanent, according to Michel Rathier, Domtar’s media relations supervisor.
The obsolete machine produced fine paper and envelopes. It held 293,000 short tons of paper, Rathier said.
The Montreal-based company has made similar cost-cutting measures at other plants in the past. Those measures include temporary and permanent layoffs and slowing or shutting down paper-making machines.
Domtar has 15 plants operating in the United States.
Thomas Hammond, vice president of government relations for the company, met with Washington County Manager David Peoples earlier this week to assure him that the plant will remain open.
Hammond also told Peoples there would be no additional layoffs at the Plymouth plant.
But Rathier said the future is still not bright for the company.
Additional cuts by the paper-making company depend on demand for its product.
Those workers laid off will include hourly and salaried employees, supervisors and individuals in management-level positions.
Following the layoffs, the plant will continue to employ more than 500 people and operate two pulp lines, one pulp dryer and one paper-making machine.
Peoples immediate concern is for the 185 employees to be laid off.
In December 2008, Weyerhaeuser laid off 27 employees at its saw mill neighboring the Domtar plant near Plymouth. The layoffs came with a reduction of shifts at the mill from three to two. The saw mill, which produces dimension lumber, now employees 177 people.
Peoples said the layoffs at the two mills are a “tough blow” to the county.