Union approves contract

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RUMFORD — United Steelworkers Local 900 members resoundingly approved a new five-year contract with their paper mill employer, NewPage Corp., in a vote held Thursday.

Ninety-five percent of the 425 who voted approved the deal, Ron Hemingway, Local 900 recording secretary, said. “This contract approval of NewPage’s ‘Best and Final Offer’ after months of negotiations comes as a huge relief to the mill’s 750 plus workers who have worked without a contract since the last one expired on July 1, 2010,” Hemingway said. Many of us, such as myself, have not had a day off in three weeks.”

The new contract will give the 750 union members a 2 percent wage increase as well as increases in accidental and sickness insurance.

“A very important result of this contract approval is that the workers have job security for the next five years, which will be very important to the River Valley communities’ economy,” Hemingway said. “We also know what our health insurance will be for the next several years.”

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Union members, though not entirely thrilled with the contract’s provisions, feel fortunate given the relative poor state of the nation’s economy and the health of the country’s paper mill industry, Hemingway said.

“NewPage has shut down two of its paper mills in Wisconsin fairly recently,” he said, “and we have witnessed the shut down of Maine paper mills such as the one in East Millinocket so we feel fortunate to have settled this contract.

“The mill’s employment of nearly 1,000 workers serves as a tremendous economic engine for the River Valley’s economy,”  Hemingway said. “The NewPage workers’ wages turn over three to five times in local area businesses, such as our restaurants and grocery stores.”

dfayen@sunjournal.com

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