Workers at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay will find out soon who at the mill will lose their jobs, and the Maine Department of Labor and other agencies are working this week to provide relief for laid-off workers.

The company is “nearing the end of the identification process” of who will be laid off, Bill Cohen, manager of communications and public affairs for Verso Maine, said Tuesday. He wouldn’t say publicly, though, when the company will begin to notify workers.

“People are anxious and it’s important that they know as soon as they can whether they’ll be affected,” Cohen said.

The labor department is holding worker assistance workshops Thursday and Friday at the mill, as well as later this month, said Julie Rabinowitz, director of policy, operations and communication for the department, in an email Tuesday.

The mill, which is owned by Verso Corp., announced in August that it will lay off about 300 people, citing a drop in demand for coated paper in North America, high operating costs in Maine and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar, which has resulted in an increase in foreign imports.

The company is required to give employees 60 days’ notice before the layoffs take effect, which means the earliest employees would be out of work would be early December. The employees aren’t represented by a labor union.

In the meantime, Cohen said, the company is trying to work with employees to ease the transition.

“There is a lot of activity around trying to help them,” he said. “There is a lot of anxiety, and the first step is to finish identifying who will be laid off.”

The company has offered early retirement packages to eligible hourly employees, but Cohen said it is still expecting to lay off about 300 workers.

On Thursday and Friday the state’s Rapid Response team, a group that works to assist workers facing job loss because of downsizing or closures, will host worker assistance sessions at the mill.

The sessions will focus on state CareerCenter resources and how to navigate the unemployment process and health insurance options. Later sessions are scheduled for Oct. 22, 23, 29 and 30.

Cohen said the company has filed an application for Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program that provides job training and worker assistance to workers who have been affected adversely by foreign competition. If that comes through, those benefits also would be discussed with workers at the counseling sessions.

Maine’s congressional delegation has backed a request that the U.S. Secretary of Labor provide assistance to the mill workers through the TAA program. Funding for the program expired in September, and lawmakers are looking at it for renewal. Rabinowitz said that the department had to submit a petition to the federal government in order to be considered for the program and has worked with Verso on its application.

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said Tuesday that the Town Office has not heard from many people yet about the state of the layoffs.

On Nov. 10 the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area will host a resource fair focusing on job opportunities and other options such as continuing education that will take place at the Mt. Blue High School campus in Farmington and Murray Hall in Livermore Falls.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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