COURTLAND — Anthony Eckl said he had not updated his resume since he was hired at Champion 32 years ago, before the mill was obtained by International Paper in 2000. Eckl believed he would retire at the mill.
But Eckl, like many other IP workers, was at a job fair Thursday at Courtland Baptist Church looking for work because the paper plant is closing soon.
IP workers clutched resumes and job applications as they waded through booths of potential employers. Others wandered through the fair, many admitting they felt out of place in the job market.
“I’m hoping to find that job that matches up with my skill level,” said Eckl, an engineer who lives in Lauderdale County.
Carl Tate, who has worked at IP for 38 years, is looking for work for the first time. The Lauderdale County resident recalled how he was hired after a recommendation from a neighbor.
“I went to a guy’s back door looking for a job,” he said. “This is my first job interview, and my first time looking for a job.”
Several workers said local jobs were their first choice, seeking companies such as 3M, BP Chemicals and Wise Alloys.
Mill manager Mary Hunting said two of the mill’s four machines will shut down by the end of November. Layoffs will start during the first week of December, which Hunting said will affect less than 10 percent of the 1,096 workers employed at the mill. She said some employees will be recruited to help shut down the mill, which can be a multi-year process.
Hunting said half of the mill’s employees are eligible for retirement options. IP has conducted 300 interviews with employees looking to transfer internally.
IP officials also met Thursday morning in Decatur with hourly workers to discuss their final paycheck, benefits, savings plan, pension plans, retiree medical and life insurance, and how and when to apply for retirement.
The meeting was closed to the public, but The Decatur Daily obtained a 23-page PowerPoint presentation that stated the minimum severance package for employees will be two weeks’ pay for 42 hours per week.
IP also is providing a “one-time transition” payment of $2,000 to all hourly employees, the document states.
Employees’ medical and dental plans with IP will end on the “last day of the month in which” employment ends with the company.
IP will host similar meetings with workers today, and next Thursday and Friday in Muscle Shoals.
Deangelo McDaniel contributed to this report. Meredith Qualls can be reached at 256-340-2442 or email@example.com.