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Alcoa’s retirement incentives for East Plant get more takers than expected

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MASSENA — More employees than expected have taken Alcoa’s offer of early retirement or relocation, and the result will be the reduction of “a few hundred” jobs in Massena, the president of United Steelworkers Local 450-A said Monday.

The 254 union members who work at the Alcoa East plant had until Feb. 21 to choose and until Friday to change their minds.

“When we looked at all of the options available, we came up with a list based on who was eligible for what, and the numbers are coming back higher than we anticipated,” Local 450-A President David W. LaClair Jr. said.

Final numbers are expected to be available next week, he said.

Employees had several options to choose from, including an early retirement or quit package that includes a lump-sum payment of $25,000 plus $500 per year of service. Those who elect to transfer to a plant other than Alcoa West will receive a one-time payment of $15,000 plus $500 for every year of service.

“You’re going to see a few hundred jobs go, but primarily everything will be voluntary,” Mr. LaClair said, adding that he thinks the quality of the deals offered by Alcoa shows the company’s commitment to Massena.

“It does show that Alcoa is trying to preserve the power contract,” he said. “The governor can allow flexibility on that, and given the situation we would, too.”

The contract that provides the manufacturer with a long-term supply of low-cost hydropower through the New York Power Authority requires Alcoa to maintain a minimum of 900 jobs in Massena.

“The governor is the only one who can let Alcoa go below that 900 number,” Mr. LaClair said.

When Alcoa announced in January that it is shutting down the remaining two antiquated potlines at its Massena East plant, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration pressed the company to avoid involuntary layoffs, using the NYPA contract as leverage.

Mr. LaClair said Alcoa West employees were offered similar incentives in hopes of freeing up some space for Alcoa East employees to move over.

He said he is optimistic the company will go through with its planned $600 million modernization.

“We still hope that Alcoa will modernize here,” he said. “Those little baby steps are ongoing.”

Mr. LaClair said work at the site, including the clearing of land and moving of utility poles, has already happened.

The decommissioning process at the former Reynolds plant, which will continue to employ 50 Alcoa East employees, is expected to last up until the 2015 deadline, at which time Alcoa has to announce whether it will proceed with upgrading the plant.

Should the company decide to not move forward, Mr. LaClair said, it could be bad news for Alcoa West, as well.

“If they pull the plug on it, the West plant needs to start worrying,” he said.

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