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Production to end a month early at Verso paper mill

LUKE, Md. (From news reports) -- The Verso Corporation paper mill in Luke, Md., has released some specifics in connection with its previously announced closing.

"The last official day of employment (employment termination date) for most mill employees will still be June 30, and each employee's pay and company-subsidized benefits will continue through that date. However, the last day of work for the majority of employees will now be May 31," Kathi Rowzie Verso's Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs with Verso Corporation said. "A few employees in various departments across the mill will be required to work beyond May 31 to assist with the safe and orderly shutdown of the mill. Other than the production shutdown date and the change in the last day of work for most employees, nothing else related to the Luke Mill's closure has changed since the original announcement on April 30."

United Steel Workers Local 676 President Greg Harvey said the local union was notified of the production date change last Friday morning.

"There will be shut down work that needs to be done, clean up, emptying of tanks and flushing the lines. This is a 228-acre facility we can't just shut the lights off and walk out the door," Harvey said.

According to Harvey, the biggest concern for the workers is health care coverage past June 30. He said they are in negotiations with Verso officials. He said local employers and officials to assist with benefits and financial planning will be available at the job fair Tuesday at the Bruce Outreach Center in Westernport, Md.

Verso announced the closing April 30 putting 675 area residents out of a job.

"It is unfortunate that we had to make the decision to close the Luke Mill, but the continuing decline in demand for the grades of paper manufactured there left us no choice but to close this facility that has struggled with profitability for a number of years, "Verso Interim Chief Executive Officer Leslie Lederer said on April 30. "The company explored the possibility of producing alternate grades of paper products but the conclusion remained the same - we could not achieve profitability at the mill in today's market environment."


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