Mendocino Humboldt Redwood Company, LLC
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PALCO

Humboldt Redwood moves quickly on hiring

By John Driscoll
The Times-Standard
August 1, 2008

FORTUNA — Millworkers hired by the new Humboldt Redwood Co. were told to report to work Monday for a meeting and be ready to fire up the Scotia mill as early as Tuesday.

Humboldt Redwood officials briefed the new employees — from the old Pacific Lumber Co. — at the Monday Club here Thursday, going over policies and the pay and benefits they would earn at the new outfit.

Outside, Robert Agnew, a saw filer at PL for a total of 31 years who was hired by Humboldt Redwood, said his own pay would remain the same, but the benefits he will get are a significant improvement. He described Humboldt Redwood management’s approach as refreshing.

“It’s just a relief to know it’s on its way,” Agnew said of the mill reopening.

The Mendocino Redwood Co. and Marathon Structured Finance Fund acquired PL and the town of Scotia after PL went bankrupt in January 2007 and they proposed a reorganization plan. The transition took place earlier this week after bond holders with a stake in the company’s 210,000 acres of timberland lost their own bids to restructure PL.

Humboldt Redwood is in the process of hiring hourly workers, and working out arrangements with salaried employees. It expects to hire about 250 from the old PL, and Marathon estimates it will hire 50 for the Town of Scotia Co. Dozens will not get job offers, however, and others won’t see the same pay rate as they had.

In a letter to employees Thursday, Humboldt Redwood CEO Richard Higgenbottom said pay rates at PL varied from market rates, including some that were above and some that were below.

Employees being hired would be taken on at market rates for the jobs they are doing, Higgenbottom said by phone from Scotia. Those workers who had been making a higher wage would be compensated through one-time payments calculated by the difference in the rate over a year, in order to smooth the transition.

Higgenbottom said the challenge of running an economically viable business is not a small task.

“We recognize that we’re going to have to earn everybody’s trust,” Higgenbottom said. “We’re going to try to embrace the heritage that is here.”

At the Monday Club, Operations Manager Doug McIsaac told sawmill workers that the emphasis at the mill would be on safety, not speed.

“Once you get used to doing it that way,” he said, “production comes with it.”

Mike Kilroy, an oiler at the mill for more than 13 years, said he was pleased with the benefits he’d receive through Humboldt Redwood and was anxious to start work on Tuesday.

Higgenbottom said he expected all offers for mill work would be issued by today, and that forestry and management job offers would go out by Monday.

The Times-Standard was unable to reach Marathon representatives for comment Thursday.

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