Former KPC workers sue over severance

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2000

KETCHIKAN - Several dozen former Ketchikan Pulp Co. workers have sued their ex-employer for allegedly failing to honor an agreement to pay severance benefits after the pulp mill closed in 1997.

The lawsuit was filed in Ketchikan Superior Court earlier this month on behalf of 91 former workers at the pulp mill and KPC's sawmills in Ketchikan and Metlakatla.

KPC and parent company Louisiana-Pacific Corp. offered severance benefits to employees who lost their jobs when the pulp mill closed in March 1997. According to the complaint, the benefits included two weeks pay for each year of employment, vacation pay and retraining.

Forty-three of the plaintiffs continued working at the pulp mill during its shutdown or as cleanup workers at the Ketchikan sawmill after its closure. The other 48 worked at the Metlakatla operation, which shut down in 1998.

The workers were assured by KPC and Louisiana-Pacific that they would receive the same severance package as the employees who left the company earlier, said plaintiff lawyer Clifford Smith.

But the workers were offered significantly diminished benefits, according to the complaint. The severance package was reduced to 40 hours of pay per year of employment and no vacation pay.

The employees have asked the court to order Louisiana-Pacific and KPC to pay the benefits that were allegedly promised and to hit the companies with a penalty for the delays.

David Dugan, Louisiana-Pacific's corporate communications manager, denied Friday that his company has done anything wrong.

``We implemented a policy that is fair and equitable and a policy that is in place across all L-P operations nationwide,'' he said. ``We feel that we adequately lived up to our responsibility.''

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