Union to hold vigil

Published 7:35 am Monday, August 27, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
As interviews continue for jobs open at the new Georgia Pacific-owned mill in Brewton, union members are planning a prayer vigil Monday night to show support for employees.
Smurfit-Stone announced earlier this month that it would sell the 50-year-old Brewton container mill to Georgia Pacific for $355 million in an asset sale. The deal does not include employees, so mill workers have been told they will be terminated by Smurfit and must reapply for their jobs through Georgia Pacific.
The candlelight prayer vigil will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Fort Crawford Park in East Brewton.
Clergy members and union leaders are expected to speak, he said, and union members from out of town were likely to attend as well.
Georgia Pacific has held four days of job fairs to inform mill workers and others interested in employment about the company's practices and requirements. Interviews for salaried positions have been ongoing at the Brewton Inn this week, and hourly workers are invited to submit applications through the Alabama Employment Office.
Steelworkers union officials have said Smurfit-Stone promised them a successorship clause for employees under any sale of the mill - a clause that would have protected workers and their contracts. But Smurfit officials say no such deal existed, on paper or verbally.
Details about the status of retirement plans under Smurfit have not yet been announced.
Barnette said the event is designed to show support, not to cause problems.
Local union members had asked the City of Brewton for permission to use Burnt Corn Creek Park in downtown Brewton but were turned down, Barnette said. City Clerk John Angel said city officials were concerned about the number of people attending the event and the safety of those involved.
The sale of the mill is expected to be completed by the end of September, and Georgia Pacific officials have said they expect prospective employees to know by then whether they will be working under the new ownership.

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