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Alcoa files document indicating layoffs may be coming

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NEW YORK - Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said he received word on Thursday that Alcoa will be filing a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice at some point in the near future.

Mr. Hidy explained that a WARN notice is a legal document that declares a company may potentially be laying off employees.

According to the Worker’s Guide to Advance Notice of Closings and Layoffs” on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, a WARN notice must be filed if one of three conditions are met.

“A plant closing where your employer shuts down a facility or operating unit within a single site of employment and lays off at least 50 full-time workers; a mass layoff where your employer lays off either between 50 and 499 full-time workers at a single site of employment and that number is 33 percent of the number of full-time workers at the single site of employment; or a situation where your employer lays off 500 or more full-time workers at a single site of employment.”

Mr. Hidy said he was contacted by representatives from Sen. Joseph A. Griffo’s office, as well as June O’Neill, who works in the governor’s office, following Thursday’s “emergency meeting” state officials had with Alcoa representatives in New York City.

“After speaking with Sen. Griffo’s and June O’Neill’s offices, I understand the meeting was ‘somewhat successful,’” he said.

Based on information garnered in those conversations, Mr. Hidy and Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, who also spoke with officials from the governor’s office, said Alcoa is working to try and find ways to reduce its workload without falling in breach of a contract they signed with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the state in exchange for 478 megawatts of ow-cost hydroelectric power from the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Hydroelectric Plant.

“They (the governor’s office) reiterated their position and New York state is holding Alcoa to the terms of the contract and that there be no involuntary layoffs of employees,” Mr. Gray said. “They told me Alcoa has been made aware of this and they’re working with the union to try and come up with some incentives for retirements or other voluntary separations, as they (the state) expect Alcoa to maintain the required job levels according to the contract.”

Mr. Hidy had similar comments.

“What they’re (Alcoa) going to try and do is encourage early retirements and voluntary layoffs, but the governor’s office is holding firm in regards to involuntary layoffs being a breach of contract.”

That point was again made clear in a statement released by the governor’s communications director Melissa DeRosa.

“Top officials from the Cuomo administration and the New York Power Authority met with Alcoa representatives today (Thursday) and reiterated our position that the company is expected to honor the terms of its long-term power supply contract with NYPA,” she said. “Involuntary layoffs at the Massena operation would be considered a breach.”

Ms. DeRosa said Alcoa officials heard the message and are working on a way to preserve jobs and possibly lower employment numbers through voluntary staff reductions.

“Alcoa expressed a willingness to work with us and conversations between the state, the company, and the union will continue,” she said.

When Alcoa officials were asked for their take on the meeting, they said they appreciated the state’s willingness to meet with them and listen to their concerns, releasing the following statement, “We appreciate the cooperation of the NYPA leadership and other stakeholders who share our commitment to the north country. We will continue to work with our unions, state, local and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of these changes and ensure our continued competitiveness at Massena West,” a company spokeswomam said.

The existing contract between Alcoa and NYPA says Alcoa must have a minimum of 900 employees in Massena.

According to figures released by the company on Thursday, the east plant currently employs 332 employees, while the west plant has 669 employees, giving the company a total of 1,001 employees in Massena.

Company officials reiterated Thursday they remain committed to making decisions that minimized the impact of idling the final two potlines at Alcoa East.

“We will work with the unions to minimize the impact on jobs,” the company’s statement said.

When asked whether they were in agreement with the state’s hardball approach, Mr. Gray and Mr. Hidy avoiding picking a side in the issue.

“I think Alcoa willingly signed the contract and they received guarantees from the power authority and the state as part of that contract. This is between them and New York state,” Mr. Gray said. “Obviously we are concerned and hope they (Alcoa) maintain as many jobs as possible.”

Mr. Hidy agreed and said, at this point it’s out of Massena’s hands, but he said he understands the state’s stance.

“They want to make sure the plans for modernization are still there,” he said. “It’s kind of a fine line, but now we have to wait and see how this plays out.”

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