RUMFORD – Two dozen of 70 eligible hourly employees at NewPage Corp. agreed to take an early retirement buyout linked to the shutdown of the No. 11 paper machine.

Mill spokesman Tony Lyons said 23 “last in” employees were laid off when the machine shut down Feb. 29.

The deadline for a decision by employees on whether to take the early retirement was March 7.

Now, he said, management is assessing the skills of the 24 early retirees to learn how many of the 23 laid-off workers can be called back. Those who are unemployed should know if they will be called back to work within a couple of weeks, Lyons said.

Shutting down the mill’s oldest paper machine is the result of a so-called integration process put into effect when NewPage bought the North American holdings of Stora Enso, a Finland-based paper manufacturing company.

The permanent shutdown of the century-old machine resulted in the elimination of about 60 positions. But because NewPage management knew there would be some employee impact on the Rumford mill because of the integration process, some positions remained unfilled, Lyons said.

“We ran with some vacancies,” he said.

Five to seven salaried employees have also been laid off or soon will be.

The 24 early retirees will be leaving their jobs within the next few weeks. Most had between 20 and 40 years of service at the mill.

With No. 11 shut down, the mill manufactures paper with Nos. 10, 12 and 15 paper machines and the pulp dryer.

The buyout offered, among other things, full medical coverage for 18 months and $46 per month for each year of service to the mill.

The employee count at NewPage stands at about 1,000, Lyons said.

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