By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Greg Pallesen, vice president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, said about 130 workers were to begin walking off the job at 11 a.m. and that informational pickets will be set up.
Pallesen served company officials with a strike notice earlier this morning, he said.
Workers were still streaming out of the plant at the base of Ediz Hook at 11:15 a.m.
“We'll take whatever action we need to do and go from there,” Pallesen told Peninsula Daily News.
Hourly workers at the mill are members of of AWPPW Local 155.
They have been in contract talks with Nippon for 22 months.
Without union consent, Nippon on Monday imposed a contract that members had already rejected.
Mill Manager Harold Norlund said it was the company's “best and final offer.”
Union and company representatives said Tuesday that they will reopen talks as soon as possible with a federal mediator present whenever that mediator is available.
Palleson said the union “absolutely” intends to move forward with those talks.
“The focus is this, to help this community with security [and] jobs in the long term,” Pallesen said.
This report will be updated as warranted. Follows is today's earlier report:
PORT ANGELES — Nippon Paper Industries USA and the union that represents about 130 hourly workers at the Port Angeles mill will head back to the bargaining table — with a federal mediator overseeing the talks.
Officials representing the company and the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 155 told the Peninsula Daily News that they will reopen talks — possibly by next week and with mediator Kathleen Erskine present — in the hopes of resolving a 22-month impasse over a new contract.
On Monday, without union approval, Nippon imposed what mill Manager Harold Norlund said was an unratified contract containing the company's “best and final offer.”
Union members unanimously rejected the offer March 6, said John Minor, union area representative.
On Tuesday at about 2 p.m., with work at the mill continuing, Erskine called Minor to ask if he wanted her to set up a mediation session with Nippon.
“The union would hope that it would be a bargaining session and at some point, we will resume negotiations,” Minor said.
“I would hope to meet as soon as next week, realistically,” he said, adding that the meeting time will depend on Erskine's schedule.
Norlund said Tuesday afternoon after Erskine contacted him that “of course” the company will sit down with her and representatives for the local.
“The union knows what it needs to do,” Norlund said.
“The union knows the terms and conditions of the company's best and final offer.”
Norlund would not comment on whether the company is willing to modify its position.
The declining paper market — the Ediz Hook mill produces telephone-book paper and newsprint used by newspapers, including the Peninsula Daily News — forced “cost reductions” that are contained in the new contract, Norlund said.
“We are always interested in bargaining and always interested in reaching an agreement with our employees,” Norlund said.
“We've always wanted that, and we believe they do, too, so we look forward to that.”
Minor said the union and company have not resolved any economic issues such as those relating to wages and benefits.
He said he hopes the company will change its position compared with previous bargaining sessions.
He questioned whether the company will go only as far as restating previous positions or will “try to work together to come up with a resolution to problems.”
The union Monday amended an existing unfair-labor practices complaint over the stalled talks, filing a new claim over the unilateral implementation of the contract while the two sides were negotiating.
Minor said he expected a ruling on the entire complaint, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, by mid-April.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.