Business doesn't always play fair

Published 7:22 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By Staff
Let's face it: It just plain isn't fair. No matter what kind of spin anyone tries to put on the sale of Brewton's Smurfit-Stone mill to Georgia-Pacific, the uncertainty and confusion for employees is unsettling and unfair.
Because the deal is an asset sale, Smurfit-Stone employees will essentially lose their jobs and must be rehired by Georgia-Pacific.
Logic tells us that, if the plant is to continue operating smoothly, most of those employees will keep their jobs. But, while the benefits and pay may remain relatively stable, the spectacle of long-time employees waiting in long lines to learn about the new company at a job fair is an image that is hard to shake.
In the long run, Georgia-Pacific ownership of the Brewton mill will likely be a good thing. GP is a solid company with a good reputation. Most people believe GP will invest in the mill to bring it up to date and maintain the level of quality that Brewton employees have been able to achieve.
But that doesn't make the short-term anxiety much easier. At least one union blames Smurfit-Stone for not protecting its employees, but, whether we like it or not, this was a business deal. And business deals are not always known for being kind to individuals.
As of last week Smurfit officials still didn't have an answer for employees about what happens to their retirement. If this deal has been in the works for months - and we all know we've been hearing the rumors at least that long - you would think that Smurfit could have come up with a plan by now.
That lack of information about the retirement employees have worked so hard for over the years seems to be just one more example of the indignities mill workers are facing.
But those mill employees who have worked so many years to contribute to a profitable, stable mill should have no fear of appearing undignified in our community.
We know what their work has meant to Brewton and Escambia County. The fact the mill was up for sale and not closed by Smurfit shows what an asset their hard work has been.
We're proud of what they have done.
At least one church in our city has this message on its sign: Pray for Smurfit-Stone employees.
We will.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 251-867-4876 or by e-mail at

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