Plum Creek Announces Sweeping Round of Layoffs; 145 Jobs Lost

By Beacon Staff

Plum Creek Timber Company announced another round of layoffs Thursday, eliminating a total of 145 jobs and leaving an additional 221 employees temporarily out of work in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Fortine and Pablo.

In a prepared statement, Plum Creek attributed the cutback to a continuing decline in demand for wood products. The company plans to reduce production at its four lumber sawmill facilities and its medium density fiberboard plant.

“The forest products industry in general and the lumber business in particular have been severely impacted by the battered housing market,” Rick Holley, Plum Creek president and chief executive officer, said. “The closure of the Ksanka studmill and reductions in production levels at our other facilities are painful steps to take due to the job losses and impacts to a number of our valued employees.”

Plum Creek will permanently close its Ksanka sawmill in Fortine, costing 74 jobs. The Evergreen sawmill in Kalispell will curtail operations until possibly March. When it reopens it may absorb some of the volume previously produced at Ksanka, but until then 88 employees are out of work.

In Pablo and Columbia Falls, Plum Creek will also reduce its payroll. In Pablo, its sawmill will decrease shifts and eliminate 36 jobs. In Columbia Falls, the pine board sawmill will curtail production until possibly March, leaving 133 employees out of work until it reopens, and reduce shifts at its medium density fiberboard plant, costing 35 employees their jobs.

Plum Creek has gone through several rounds of layoffs in the last year as demand for wood products has waned, but this is by far the largest. In September, the company eliminated 35 jobs at its Columbia Falls fiberboard plant and another 24 at the Kalispell finger-joint stud manufacturing facility. Another 69 local employees were laid off in November.

Summary of Plum Creek Mill Cutbacks

Ksanka stud sawmill; Fortine: Permanent closure; 74 employees laid off; 60 days notice, to close in March

Pablo pine board sawmill; Pablo: Shift reduction from 1.5 to 1; 36 employees laid off; effective immediately

Medium Density Fiberboard facilities; Columbia Falls: Shift reduction from 3 to 2 on both Line 1 and Line 2; 35 employees laid off; effective January 19, 2009

Evergreen stud sawmill; Kalispell: Temporary curtailment until March; 88 employees affected; effective immediately

Columbia Falls pine board sawmill; Columbia Falls: Temporary curtailment until March; 133 employees affected; effective immediately