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Norpac cuts staff, cuts production due to 'significant' change in orders
WASHINGTON (From news reports) -- North Pacific Paper Co. in Longview has cut staff and curtailed production in response to a "significant, sudden change" in orders due to the coronavirus, company officials said.

Norpac Chief Executive Officer Craig Anneberg released a statement stating that Norpac was "forced to temporarily reduce our workforce and curtail production in response to COVID-19 epidemic market conditions."

Local media received reports that 15 salaried workers lost their jobs the week of April 6; that 20 to 30 workers lost their jobs the week of April 20; and all remaining employees took a 5% pay cut. The report could not be corroborated on Thursday, and Norpac declined comment on specifics of the layoffs.

Laid-off employees were put on standby status, which means the company can hire them back later, according to a Norpac news release. They will continue to receive health benefits, Anneberg said.

"Our employees make Norpac what it is today -- one of the finest paper mills in the world known for quality, service and innovation. The reorganization will be difficult, but is necessary to assure we have a sustainable business when the economic recovery from COVID-19 occurs," Anneberg said in a prepared statement.

Norpac intends to maintain full operational capability, so it's ready to resume regular operations once the economy recovers, he added.

"In the meantime, we will continue to expand production of 100 percent recycled, environmentally sustainable packaging papers -- critical for the nation's supply chain response to COVID-19 -- as well as supporting orders for our print and writing customers," Anneberg said.

All three paper machines continue to operate, though at lower production volumes, company spokesman David Richey said.

"We are taking it day by day, and we will respond to market conditions as we see the economy improve from the COVID-19 pandemic," Richey said.

Customer orders have changed since Gov. Jay Inslee issued his stay-at-home order on March 23, according to the news release. The company did not elaborate on how exactly the directive affected its orders.

Norpac is allowed to stay open under the order as an "essential business." The packaging, newsprint, book and copy paper company employed at least 400 workers in August, when it converted one of its paper machines to make packaging products from 100% recycled waste paper.

Packaging products comprised about one-third of the mill's production at the time.

Now demand for packaging is "up dramatically," Richey said, "And Norpac is trying to produce as much of that as they can to meet the demand, which is critical as part of the supply chain for the COVID 19 response."

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