Former Alaska Pulp workers win back pay settlement

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

SITKA (AP) Former employees of the Alaska Pulp Corporation mill have won a settlement for back pay and benefits worth almost $12 million dollars.

The dispute between workers and APC began in 1987 and has outlasted even the mill itself, which closed in 1993.

The National Labor Relations board announced the end of the 16-year dispute earlier this week between the company and 95 workers who went on strike for ten months in 1986.

The labor board had ruled in 1989 that the company was liable for back pay and retirement benefits and that the company had violated the National Labor Relations act when, after the strike, it failed to offer qualified strikers fair job reinstatement. The board found that workers who did go back to work were offered entry-level jobs regardless of their seniority.

Under the terms of the settlement, Alaska Pulp will pay the 95 workers backpay, severance pay, medical reimbursements and/or interest totalling $11,745,000. The company will also pay an additional $380,000 for its share of Social Security and Medicare taxes on all back pay and severance awarded, and $42,000 to the 401 (k) accounts of eligible workers.

Florian Sever, who had been a millwright at the mill for 11 years before the strike, said he was glad the dispute was finally over, but the settlement should have been bigger.

Alaska Pulp comes out the big winner on this because 100 percent of the claim amounts to $14 or $15 million dollars,'' Sever said. And they've offered 11.75 million, which means they'll put the rest of that in their pocket and walk away.''

But Alan Berkowitz, a San Francisco attorney who represented the pulp mill, said the settlement is fair.

I think it's a good settlement, a fair settlement all the way around,'' Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz confirmed Florian Sever's assertion that two eligible workers had died awaiting an outcome to this dispute. Berkowitz said that their shares of this settlement will be awarded to their estates.

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