UPDATE 12:06pm: David Sommerstein here, with a little more information about the idled potline from a conversation with Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie Marr. It’s one of three potlines in the East plant, all of which will be replaced eventually by one long potline that’s the core of the modernization project.
Marr says because of the potline’s older technology, “it’s one of the most high cost smelters in the Alcoa system.” Since Alcoa announced last May it was planning on curtailing some of its production capacity in response to dropping prices, there was little surprise that this potline was chosen.
As for how to close a line that employs 100 people without layoffs, Marr would only say the details are yet to be worked out with United Steel Workers Local 450 union.
Here’s the original post:
There was a tremendous amount of press this spring about Alcoa’s deal to invest $600 million in its two Massena plants, and guarantee 900 jobs there, in exchange for a good deal on hydropower and an agreement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the company to pursue a less expensive plan to clean up the PCBs the company dumped in the Grasse River during the 1950s and ’60s.
Now the company, which is a huge employer in the North Country, is permanently idling one of its potlines at the Massena East plant. The potline produces 40,000 metric tons of aluminum. According to a company press release, Alcoa says it’s cutting production to stay competitive as aluminum prices have fallen by a third:
“We committed in May to review our global smelting capacity for possible curtailment to maintain the Company’s competitiveness,” said Bob Wilt, president of Alcoa’s Global Primary Products. “Aluminum prices, including premiums, have fallen to four-year lows and we continue to operate in an uncertain, volatile market.”
Alcoa’s spokeswoman in Massena, Laurie Marr, says the company does not anticipate layoffs. “Discussions will take place with the United Steel Workers in the coming weeks to work out details,” wrote Marr by e-mail, “but it is our goal to minimize the impact on employees.”
North Country Congressman Bill Owens seems to have summed up local feeling on the matter (or at least, official local feeling — I’d be very surprised if something different weren’t being expressed in homes, bars, and diners throughout the area), in a quote from the story:
While I am disappointed by this situation, I am happy Alcoa is going forward with their recently begun expansion project. I am hopeful today’s news will not result in layoffs and that the expansion will ultimately increase employment in northern New York.
A reminder that while Alcoa Massena currently employs about 1,200 workers, the deal the company made in April only has it guaranteeing 900 jobs. WWNY reports 360 people work in the East plant, 260 of whom are hourly employees.