MADISON — Madison Paper Industries has cut back production by two days a week, the mill’s union president said Tuesday, citing declining demand as the reason the company gave for a move that will result in less pay for workers.

Russ Drechsel, president and CEO of Madison Paper, declined to comment or confirm the cutback because of a “strict silent period” that the company is under until financial information becomes public Tuesday.

The mill, which produces supercalendered magazine paper, had operated 24 hours a day, seven days per week, but is now in its second week of operating Tuesday through Saturday, a move that’s expected to last three to six months.

“Our membership is angry – and who wouldn’t be when you’re taking a pay cut and bringing home less money to take care of your family? People are very frustrated,” said Michael Croteau, president of the United Steel Workers Local 36, the union at Madison Paper.

While Madison officials say it shouldn’t have a big effect on the town’s finances, water district officials are concerned it could hurt a planned $3.2 million upgrade.

Announcement of the cutback comes as Verso Paper Corp., which operates the nearby Androscoggin Mill in Jay, filed for bankruptcy. It also recently citing declining demand for paper and increasing foreign imports as reasons for that company’s struggles.

No layoffs have been announced at the Madison mill, Croteau said, but the cutback means employees will work fewer hours a week and be less likely to get overtime.

A normal workweek at the mill is 48 hours a week with Sunday pay at double the normal rate.

Workers previously were scheduled for three 12-hour shifts in a row followed by three days off, but under the curtailment they are now working five days per week Tuesday through Saturday for eight-hour shifts with little to no overtime expected, Croteau said.

A six-month curtailment could mean a loss of as much as $6,000 to $7,500 in the yearly income of workers, Croteau said.

Chris Roy, a member of the Anson-Madison Water District board of trustees, said he was concerned that the water district might not be able to afford the proposed $3.2 million water line replacement project that the trustees are planning for the spring.

Madison Paper makes up about 10 percent of the water district’s revenue, Roy said, and the district already is planning a rate increase for users to fund the project.


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