Johannesburg - Layoff notifications affecting about 959 employees have been received by Solidarity from paper manufacturer Sappi in the past month, the union said on Tuesday.The layoff notifications were from Sappi's Ngodwana, Enstra, Richards Bay and Tugela mills, spokeswoman Ilze Nieuwoudt said."Solidarity and the employer are currently engaged in intense talks with a view to consolidating the four processes so that they could be handled simultaneously at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA]," she said.The union has since requested consolidation of the four layoff processes in order to speed up the process and to shorten the time of stress and uncertainty for affected workers."Solidarity will investigate alternatives to the layoffs during the consultations and will seek to reduce the number of affected people," Nieuwoudt said.The consolidated consultation process would start early in January.Nieuwoudt said: "South Africa's forestry and paper and pulp industries are under enormous pressure because the same products can be imported much cheaper, especially from China."She said earlier this year the trade union had already warned that the Sappi layoffs were probably only the beginning of a spate of layoffs at the company as well as in the industry."However, the extensive layoffs which have now begun at Sappi came earlier than expected and the timing thereof, right at the start of the festive season and with the new school year coming up, is lamentable," Nieuwoudt said.