I quit my job in 1968 because of a manager like that, who made himself look good with improvements in short term cash flow, while the mill went to H@#$
He did same with staff, and got away with it to some extent, because many 30+ engineers and middle mangers were very settled in a nice town to live in. ALL the single professionals (including myself) had quit within a year. We could move easily.
Sailing on the high seas
Below is what Neil had attached. We have sanitized it to protect the company and the town. This was from a newspaper article in August 2011--Ed.
Working conditions at the [redacted] paper mill are becoming increasingly dangerous as management focuses on the profit line rather than employee safety, according to several current and former employees.
One former employee, who asked not to be identified, claims management’s philosophy “is all about the dollar bill and they’re not spending the money on maintenance.
“And those boilers are in bad shape.”
The comments come as [redacted] is under intense scrutiny by the [redacted] Department of Environmental quality and other state agencies after an unusually large discharge of “black liquor” for three consecutive days led to a massive fish kill in the [redacted] River.
One employee said that lack of maintenance of a retention pond at the effluent plant led to the discharge and fish kill.
The paper mill has been closed since [redacted] and there is still no word about its re-opening.
Mill officials have confirmed employees are continuing to get paid during the shutdown.
However, safety remains a concern for past and current employees.
“I think people need to know,” the former employee said. “It’s a frustrating place to work right now. You would think they would be concerned about safety.
“I can name you a dozen times when we talked about safety but when it comes to affecting production it went out the window. Everything is about the money, about appeasing the stockholders.”
However, the employee, who served a long career at the plant, said the dramatic decline has only come about in the past few years. He said he noticed the change after the mill switched its name from [redacted] to [redacted], which took place…
“The last three years it really got bad,” he said. “We’ve wondered for the past couple of years why they are doing what they were doing. They are not putting anything into the plant. At some point you got to maintain that mill.”
The [redacted] News sent an email with several questions to [redacted] officials, including inquiries about internal operations, maintenance and how many of the mill’s management personnel [live] in [redacted], but the only answered received was that the mill currently employees 600 workers with an annual payroll of $56 million.
Another former employee, who now lives out of the area, confirmed the assertions of several others that it’s only been since a management shakeup that conditions have deteriorated.
He spoke glowingly of the former administration, saying “these great leaders worked longer hours, sometimes 24 hours daily with no family time, trying to keep everything working properly and safe for the community.”
Both former employees confirmed that the mill was a model of safety and won numerous awards and was in compliance with DEQ and EPA regulations.
But when corporate executives in [redacted] mandated changes in [redacted] the tenor of the plant began to change, both former employees agreed. One went on to say that at least one upper management official at the mill spoke despairingly of [redacted] citizens.
Both employees who were willing to share information with The [redacted] News “on the record” told similar tales that matched “off the record” accounts. The stories included how members of the new management team were brought in from outside of the area, with no knowledge of [redacted] or its mill. Additionally, they agreed that few, if any of the current management team, including superintendents, live in [redacted].
“There’s no concern about that paper mill at all because no one (in management) in that paper mill lives in this community. It used to be they all lived here and were involved in the community,” one of the former employees said.
“Computers sounding alarms of overflow of black liquor to effluent plant and working calling for help while (management team) ignores calls for help,” one former employee said, adding the new men didn’t “even know how this plant works.”
“I think the people they bring in are so scared, given their expectations, they do what they have to do to reach their goal,” one former employee said. “What the problem is is that the hourly employees do a good job, but they now have the word taken out of their hands as far as management.
“They can’t make decisions or do the right thing without having to get directions from a superintendent.”
Both employees The [redacted] News spoke with agree that problems at the effluent plant played a major role in the release of the black liquor. There are two ponds at the plant, located beyond the back of [redacted], one approximately five acres, the other 50 acres.
Ideally, discharge from the plant should take at least 21 to 28 days to flow through before eventually draining into the [redacted] River. One former employee, who also spent time working at the effluent plant while employed by [redacted], said the discharge initially flows into the smaller “pre-retention” pond before flowing into the larger aerated retention pond where it is treated and eventually flows out into the river.
However, the employee said that because there is so much “solid” debris in the larger pond, which should have none, what should be an area 12 feet deep is very shallow, allowing water to barely skim over the top before being discharged into the river not properly treated.
He said he was concerned when he read that the black liquor incident occurred on [redacted] at the mill and only three days later the discharge was found in the river, darkening the water and creating a foam on top.
“It would never happen like that,” the employee said of the past, adding that one could not “drive a boat” in the larger pond now because it is so full of solids. He added that he believes the minimal 21-day process “probably takes one day now.”
“It’s not working because the pond is full of solids,” he said.
He added that cables and other equipment located in the pond make dredging impractical and that the solids “would have to be sucked out” at great expense.
“It would entail spending a lot of money and (management’s) philosophy is there is no return on their investment (with maintenance) except for a clean environment,” he said.
The employee went into great detail about how no spare parts are stocked in the mill storeroom. Rather, when a machine breaks down second-hand or used parts are used to repair the equipment.
Or, as the former employee said, “we spent half the day scrounging for parts.”
He also related a story of how a generator malfunctioned and needed to be replaced. He said a new generator, with a price tag of [redacted], was on site, but he was told he could not use it because “we didn’t own it” and that the new one could not be used until the beginning of the next month.
During the wait, three screws subsequently broke and had to be replaced at a cost of [redacted] per screw, along with the original generator.
He also recalled how it took six months to repair an elevator in one of the towers. Eventually, several workers went in to see plant manager [redacted] to voice their concerns about having to climb up to 10 flights of stairs at a time. The elevator was finally repaired after the meeting.
“You shouldn’t have to do that,” he said. “They weren’t going to spend money on that elevator.”
The former employee said the mill was once an “enjoyable place to work,” but now workers are “all frustrated.”
“All they talk about is retiring and getting out of that mill,” he added. “It’s not a happy place to be anymore.
“It’s a good mill.”
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