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Sappi Westbrook Workers Ratify New Contract with Pay Raises & Pension Improvements

Andy O’Brien
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About 100 unionized workers with United Steelworkers Local 1069 at the SAPPI paper mill in Westbrook have approved a new three-year contract with pay raises and improvements to pensions and disability insurance. Local 1069 members voted 95 percent on July 11 to accept the agreement, which will go into effect on August 21. USW 1069 represents 100 workers at the Sappi Westbrook mill.

“It’s a pretty a decent contract and the negotiations went quickly and fairly smoothly. I’ve been at the bargaining table when there’s been some table pounding in the past, but this one went fairly well,” said USW Local 1069 President Ron Rondeau. “We secured wage increases, a new longterm disability insurance plan, improvements to our short-term disability plan and a signing bonus. During the last three contract negotiations the company has tried to get us to give up our defined benefit pension and go to a defined contribution pension. Our negotiation committee includes many of our younger members, but they held strong on defending our pension and even modestly improved it during negotiations. I’m really proud of the work they did.”

The contract includes:

  • 3 percent wage increase each year over the length of the three-year contract $3800 signing bonus
  • Retirement improvements - a one dollar multiplier added to the workers’ defined benefit pensions.
  • A new longterm disability insurance plan and a modest increase to short-term disability, which will bring it up to $460 a week.
  • The option to break up another week of vacation into individual days to make it easier for members with less seniority to take time off

The mill produces textured surfaces, including “release papers” that are used in the production of synthetic leathers, coated fabrics, and decorative laminate panels, according to the Sappi website.

Rondeau told the Portland Press Herald that the mill sells its newer products around the world.

“Westbrook is successful in a very challenging industry,” said Rondeau. “Our products are exported all around the world.”