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Verso Union Spokesman: Lawsuit Over Severance Still Going Forward

Charles Beck

BUCKSPORT, Maine - The Maine Labor Department, the Maine attorney general and the Steelworkers Union have reached an agreement with Verso Paper officials to pay about 500 laid-off mill employees in Bucksport half of their severance by Jan. 8, and the rest by mid-March.

But there's one group of workers that's not on board:  the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. John Carr is a union spokesman who says the Machinists were at the table for negotiations over the proposed settlement, but have not yet signed on.

"No, we are not part of that agreement as it stands right now," Carr says, "and we indicated so in these meetings - that that was not the agreement that we were here to settle and that our lawsuit is still going forward."

Carr says his union represents about 50 employees at the Bucksport mill.  He says state law requires Verso to pay workers their severance when the mill shuts down at the end of the month, and includes penalties for failing to do so on time.  

"And they're substantial," he says. "So, they're still asking workers to forego compensation that they're due by asking them to accept - OK, here's a little money up front.  And we  haven't agreed to that."

Earlier this month, the Machinists Union filed a federal lawsuit over the severance issue and the planned sale of the facility to a scrap recycling company. The agreement reached Tuesday requires the company to pay the second half of workers' severance on either the fifth business day after the completion of any sale of the mill, or by March 19.  

Total payments are expected to be at least $18 million dollars.