Weyerhauser to cut jobs in response to port slowdown

Sarah Aitchison, January 9, 2015, Puget Sound Business Journal

Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser Co. confirmed Thursday it was cutting jobs in response to slowdowns at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

The timber manufacturing giant, traded on the NYSE under the ticker WY, will cut jobs at its Longview, Wash. pulp and paper mill at the end of the month.

Anthony Chavez, spokesman for Weyerhaeuser, said that the company will be reducing production at the mill.

Those who are laid off will be able to work again when production picks up. He said the mill would have some “down time.”

Chavez said the company doesn’t know how many jobs will be affected. The layoffs will begin at the end of January.

Most of the company’s exports move through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Stalled negotiations between West Coast terminal operators, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union, have made it difficult for those in the trade business to move product through the ports.

Earlier this week, a federal mediator stepped in to help the PMA and ILWU resolve the contract dispute. They have been in negotiations since May 15 and the contract expired July 1.

The ports have been experiencing a slowdown, which the union blames on industry changes and the PMA blames on the union.

Weyerhaeuser has to slow production at the mill because of the slow ports. This particular type of production facility relies heavily on the volume it can export, Chavez said, without a certain amount of guaranteed volume, it can’t operate at full capacity.

The Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) represents paper workers at Weyerhaeuser mill.

Greg Pallesen, vice president of the AWPPW, said that Weyerhaeuser did not provide a timeline for the layoffs or numbers on how many people will be laid off while the mill has its down time.

“I think it’s somewhat of a scare tactic,” Pallesen said.

There is no guarantee that those laid off will be union workers, but Pallesen said that is likely.

Late last year, Weyerhaeuser told the union it would be laying people off in 2015, but gave no further details.

Weyerhaeuser isn’t the only company that has had trouble since the ILWU and PMA negotiations turned ugly in November.

Blaine Calaway, vice president of China sales for hay and grain shipping company Calaway Trading, said that since the port slowdowns, some weeks the company can only get 30 percent of its product off the docks.

During good weeks, it can move 70 percent of planned product.

Weyerhaeuser announced last year plans to move its headquarters from Federal Way to downtown Seattle. That move is expected to take place in mid-to-late 2016.

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