NEWBURGH, Ind. (AP) — Union officials believe retirement offers could reduce the number of layoffs at an Alcoa plant in southwestern Indiana where the company is shutting down an aluminum smelter that has more than 500 workers.
United Steelworkers leaders have been negotiating with Alcoa over details of the smelter closure at the company’s Warrick Operations since the decision was announced in early January. Alcoa has said it will keep about 1,200 people working at the facility after the smelter closes at the end of March.
Steelworkers Local 104 President David Willett said that smelter workers with more seniority will have the chance to transfer to other jobs at the plant.
“The agreement took care of that issue, which was a major issue for the union,” Willett told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1XiGnj5 ).
The smelter being closed makes alumina, which is a raw material used in the production of aluminum. Alcoa will continue operating its rolling mill and power plant at the 9,000-acre site along the Ohio River about 10 miles east of Evansville.
Alcoa officials have said the closure decision was made because the smelter isn’t competitive as the price of aluminum dropped by about 30 percent last year.
Willett estimated more than 100 current rolling mill employees will lose their jobs as smelter workers with more seniority take their place.
The exact number isn’t yet known, Willett said, because the Alcoa agreement also includes severance and retirement package offers. Most smelter employees are getting such offers, along with some rolling mill employees.
The number of layoffs depends on how many people accept offers, Willett said, and that won’t be known until next month.
“If everyone was to take a package, we could avoid layoffs,” he said.
Willett said the job cuts are expected to total 527. In a notice filed Feb. 5 with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Alcoa said “up to 600” employees will be laid off.
Alcoa spokesman Jim Beck said he could not account for the difference between the company and union layoff numbers.
Most employees will be laid off by April 7, according to the company’s notice.
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com
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