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December 24, 2014

State, Verso settle severance pay dispute

After initial disagreement, Verso Paper has reached an agreement with the state that requires it to make half of all severance payments to laid off workers in Bucksport by early January.

The Maine Department of Labor and the Attorney General's office announced the settlement was filed in Kennebec County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Verso must pay the remaining severance balance to the 500 affected workers in Bucksport by March 19. The first severance payment will include final wages and any unused 2014 vacation pay. The second will include any unused 2015 vacation pay. The total due to all workers is estimated to be at least $18 million.

If Verso doesn't comply with the settlement, the company will be fined $1,000 per affected worker, according to the settlement.

State Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette said in a prepared statement that “if Verso should violate the terms of this agreement, the [Labor Department] remains prepared to enforce the severance law to the extent allowed by law.” She added, “Since the department can't enforce a law until it is broken, and enforcement actions can take a long time, this agreement is better for the workers because it gives them immediate relief, with additional compensation to come.”

The settlement comes after Verso initially stated that workers laid off from its shuttered Bucksport mill would receive severance pay by April 1, as outlined in its collective bargaining agreements, according to the Bangor Daily News. State officials then vowed to ensure that Verso follows state law, which requires large companies to issue severance pay within one pay period of an employee's last full day of work. In Verso's case, that meant Jan. 8, 2015.

Read more

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Union sues to block Verso mill sale

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India papermaker seeks to buy Bucksport mill

Verso completes sale of Bucksport mill

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