PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) — As more than 400 workers continue to be locked out of the WestRock paper mill in East Alabama, the company was looking to hire new employees Thursday during a job fair.
The work stoppage as the result of a labor dispute between the company and three unions is in its 112th day.
WestRock officials won’t say if today’s hiring event is related to the long-running labor dispute, but it didn’t stop hundreds of job seekers from showing up at a Phenix City hotel.
While people lined up at the Courtyard by Marriott to apply for a job, some workers were still on the picket line 25 miles to the south in Cottonton.
WestRock is looking for production workers to staff the mill that produces coated board, it is heavy-duty paper that is used in product packaging.
After working for 11 months without a contract, the unions and WestRock reached an impasse in early October, forcing what the union has called an illegal lockout.
Union leaders say the dispute is over overtime and pay to protect them for working these unconventional hours. The company has declined to comment on the dispute.
Advance publicity on the job fair said the company was looking for production employees.
Here’s what WestRock Human Resources Manager Ann Girtman had to say about the job fair.
“We are trying to make sure that we staff our mill,” Girtman said. “Right now, employment has been hard in staffing the mill and we are trying to make sure we build our pool up of applicants, as well as bring some through our temp agencies to fill our job openings. It is really a pretty consistent process.”
About 480 union employees were locked out on October 6th. Since that time more than 60 of those union employees have retired from the mill.
The unions have held three votes on offers from WestRock. All three of those votes were rejected by the membership. The most recent on Jan. 4th.
WRBL has reached out to union leaders for comment on the job fair. We will let you know when we hear something.
The three WestRock unions are affiliated with the United Steelworkers.