The high U.S. dollar and soft markets will cause an eight-day shutdown at Sappi Fine Paper North America's Cloquet paper plant that will affect about 250 union workers, officials said Thursday.

The plant employs a total of 730 workers, said spokeswoman Katie Leonowitz.

"The downtime will not have any impact on Sappi's ability to supply coated paper to our customers, as we have ample production flexibility to meet their needs," the company said in a statement.

Sappi mill manager Mike Schultz posted a letter to members of the United Steelworkers Local 11-63 on the union's Facebook page.

"Our order situation for paper has not improved to the point where we are reducing inventory to the levels we need," the letter said. "Much of this is brought on by the strength of the U.S. dollar making it very attractive for global competitors to do business in the U.S. This in essence is holding our cash captive and we can no longer afford to let that go unchecked and stay viable."

The layoffs, which amount to about a week's work for those affected, are set to begin Tuesday. The mill makes two key products: paper pulp and a plant-based cellulose product that is woven into rayon cloth. Sappi diversified into the cellulose product a few years ago to give it a new revenue stream because paper usage continues to decline as more paper ads and magazines go digital.

Sappi cut 110 jobs from its North American operations last year. In 2012, 400 union members from the Cloquet plant voted to strike after months of bargaining brought no resolution.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725