Part of Camas paper mill to shut down, between 280 and 300 jobs lost

The Camas identity will take a hit next year as hundreds of papermakers are set to lose their jobs.

Georgia-Pacific on Tuesday announced it plans to shut down several operations at its Camas mill and cut up to 300 jobs. Between 120 and 140 jobs will remain at the mill, which opened in 1885 and in the 1980s employed around 2,400.

“The paper mill is the reason Camas exists,” said Peter Capell, city administrator. “The biggest concern we have about this is the people. They have mortgages, college payments, retirement. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

The Atlanta, Ga.-based company and subsidiary of Koch Industries said the cuts stem from dives in demand for communications paper, mainly used in offices for printers, copiers and the like.

“It’s definitely not a reflection of the employees, they have worked very hard and taken a lot of pride in running these assets and keeping them going, but it’s just a situation where it’s a declining marketplace,” said spokeswoman Kristi Ward. “People just aren’t using as much office paper as they used to.”

Closures aren’t expected to start until the second quarter of 2018. Employees were told Tuesday morning in meetings, Ward said. She added that they hoped to give workers time to make plans.

“We felt it was the right thing to communicate to employees so they can start making plans for their future,” she said.

Georgia-Pacific will meet with labor leaders to figure out how the mill will be staffed until operations end. Salaried employees will be met with individually, she said.

Labor leaders disagreed with the reasoning. Greg Pallesen, president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, said demand for paper products remains high, but paper products from Asia are being imported cheaper.

“It’s a terrible situation,” he said.

Workers at the Camas mill will face an uncertain future. The union represents mechanics, pipefitters, janitorial staff and more classifications. The average worker is in his or her late 40s, according to Brian Anderson, who represents the local workers.

“They’re facing going from one of the better paid industries across the board to abject poverty, with little concern by the corporation they work for,” he said. “This (decision) was made by accountants. We were a world-class paper mill not even six months ago.”
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