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Alcoa cuts employee hours following fire

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MASSENA - Last month’s industrial fire at Alcoa’s Massena West plant is prompting employee hour reductions.

Approximately 75 employees will have their weekly hours reduced from 40 to 32 effective this week, according to spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr. The employees are in the Forgings & Extrusions production portion of the west plant, Ms. Marr said in an email.

“The schedule is temporary and will be evaluated on a weekly basis,” Ms. Marr said.

The hour reductions affect half of AFE’s approximately 150 employees, Ms. Marr said. In total, Alcoa’s Massena West operations employ approximately 540 hourly and 175 salaried workers.

United Steelworkers Local 420-A must still sign off on the agreement, according to President Christopher W. Baldwin. Alcoa representatives told him late Monday afternoon they were finishing up the paperwork on the reductions.

“Naturally there’s mixed emotions. People don’t like to get a reduced check,” Mr. Baldwin said. “Hopefully this will be a short-term thing.”

The March 29 blaze damaged a portion of the cast house where employees converted molten aluminum into ingot. AFE production depended on that conversion, Mr. Baldwin said, as those employees took that ingot aluminum, cut it, furnished it and turned it into a shippable product for customers.

Last month’s fire stymied the cast house’s ability to produce ingot. The cast house fire cut off the plant’s ingot supply, which in turn hindered AFE’s operations, Mr. Baldwin said.

Ms. Marr said Alcoa is working to temporarily acquire ingot from other sources in order to maintain AFE’s operations. She previously said the plant was also working to restore its ability to produce ingot on-site.

“Everyone has a different take on how much time that’s going to take,” Mr. Baldwin said. “Hopefully ... they’ll get their suppliers and this will be a short-term thing.”

The affected employees will be entering a “shared work program” with the New York state Department of Labor. The DOL will compensate affected employees with partial unemployment benefits for the eight hours of lost wages, Mr. Baldwin said.

In addition, the union is examining other employment options with Alcoa, Mr. Baldwin said. He declined to comment specifically on what those are.

“We’ll do what we have to keep people employed,” Mr. Baldwin said. “The main thing right now is to keep everyone gainfully employed.”

Last week, Ms. Marr said “nobody has any plans for layoffs” following the blaze. When asked Monday if that was still the case, she said Alcoa was continuing to review workforce needs as it moves through a post-fire assessment of the plant.

“At this point in time, there have been no layoffs,” she said Monday.

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