MADISON — Employees at Madison Paper Industries will be returning to work at the mill early next week following a temporary shut-down that left about 110 people out of work for two weeks.

Workers will be called back to the mill beginning Monday. It will take a few days before production is back to normal, according to UPM President Russ Drechsel. The mill, owned by UPM Paper Europe & North America, has not been producing paper since Jan. 24.

“We should be in full production early next week,” Drechsel said. There are no plans for future curtailments right now, he said.

Despite heading back to work after the temporary shutdown, some employees are concerned about the future of the mill, said Mike Croteau, president of Steelworkers 36, the union that represents Madison Paper employees. He said workers were able to collect unemployment during the shut-down.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who are nervous about it,” Croteau said. “I mean, who wouldn’t be? We haven’t normally seen these types of layoffs at Madison Paper and now, here we are, 2015, and there are layoffs. Especially when you see what happened in Bucksport, it’s scary today.”

Verso Paper Corp. closed its Bucksport mill at the end of last year, idling more than 500 workers.

Andrea Maker, spokeswoman for the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, said she could not comment specifically on the situation at Madison Paper but she conceded that the paper industry is generally struggling.

“For the publication paper industry these are very challenging times,” she said. “It’s a very competitive market and every mill has to make choices to stay viable.”

In a Jan. 13 letter to Maine’s congressional delegation, Drechsel cited unfair competition from Port Hawkesbury Paper in Nova Scotia and rising energy costs as the reasons for the shutdown. He would not comment on the financial impact of the shutdown.

Allegations against the Canadian mill regarding unfair subsidies from the provincial government are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In a joint statement Friday, U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said they were happy to see employees of Madison Paper returning to work but that they had no update on the status of the mill’s complaints about subsidies in Nova Scotia.

“While we are pleased that the men and women of Madison Paper Industries will be returning to work on Monday, we regret the hardship that the temporary layoff has caused,” the statement said. “We are pressing the Department of Commerce to do everything in its power to put a stop to these unfair trade subsidies and we will continue to fight any practices that threaten Maine jobs, Maine families, and Maine communities.”

Canadian government officials and representatives from the Nova Scotia mill have said they do not believe a $125 million assistance package used to help re-start the Nova Scotia mill after it was sold in 2012 violated trade practices.

“What Port Hawkesbury and Nova Scotia have done has affected my mill directly,” Croteau said. “They’re really affecting what happens in Madison, Maine, and I’m hoping we can get this stuff taken care of.”

Madison Paper employs about 225 people and until recently represented about 40 percent of the town’s property tax base. In August, the town’s board of assessors announced that the tax valuation of the mill had dropped from $229.7 million in 2013 to $80 million. The reduced assessment came after negotiation between UPM, the owner of the mill, and the town over the value of the mill given a decline in demand for paper, and in particular, in paper used in publishing.

In neighboring Skowhegan, assessors reduced the valuation of the Sappi Fine Paper mill by $100 million.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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