WEST POINT(AP) -- A West Point paper mill is preparing for a possible strike by hundreds of hourly workers after contract negotiations stalled.

Spokesmen for Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. and the United Steelworkers told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday that union workers with Local #2-0467 have not voted on whether to strike.

However, the company ran an ad in Sunday's Times-Dispatch for 'temporary, replacement employees to perform production and maintenance jobs' at the plant. The ad said the company was anticipating a labor dispute at the mill, which makers paper for boxes and other products.

The offer in January was the 'last, best and final' offer from the company and in February, the union rejected the offer.

'On Feb. 21, we mailed letters to our employees' homes indicating our plan to implement many of the terms of the Company's final offer on March 16. The Company also left open for the union and employees the option of agreeing to the final offer in its entirety so that the parties could have an agreed-upon labor contract in place,' Brad Gilks, Controller, Smurfit-Stone, West Point Mill told on Wednesday.

He added that the company is hopeful an agreement will be reached. However, should a strike be called, the mill will continue to operate with salaried employees and temporary workers.

The parent company is just six months out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy -- having completed financial restructuring on June 30, 2010. The Wall Street Journal reported the 17-month restructuring slashed the packaging manufacturer's debt load by nearly $3 billion.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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