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USW still waiting for final numbers

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MASSENA - The 254 members of United Steelworkers Local 450-A, who work at Alcoa’s East in Massena had until Feb. 21 to declare whether they intended to transfer to another plant, accept an early retirement, or accept a quit package.

Employees then had until Friday to change their minds.

“I don’t have any concrete numbers yet,” Local 450-A President David W. LaClair Jr. said Monday. “Some of the west plant numbers hinge on what people do on our side. They’re still going through all of that and then we’ll have some final numbers.”

Mr. LaClair said Alcoa West employees were offered a similar settlement in hopes of freeing up some space for Alcoa East employees to switch to their facility.

While final numbers aren’t yet available, Mr. LaClair said preliminary records show that more people than expected are taking advantage of the option Alcoa offered to them.

“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,” he said.

Employees had several options to choose from including an early retirement or quit package that came with a lump sum payment of $25,000, as well as an additional $500 per year of service to the company.

Employees electing to transfer to plants other than Alcoa West would receive a one time payment of $15,000 with an additional $500 for every year of service to the company.

Mr. LaClair said he hopes to have final numbers available by the start of next week.

“You’re going to see a few hundred jobs go, but primarily everything will be voluntary,” he said, adding he feels like the quality of the deals offered by Alcoa show 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, which gives the company low-cost power, currently 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,” he said.

Mr. LaClair added that he is optimistic the company’s $600 million modernization project will still take place.

“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 right up until the 2015 deadline, at which time Alcoa has to announce whether they’re moving forward with the plant’s modernization.

Should the company elect to not move forward, Mr. LaClair said employees at Alcoa West should begin to worry too.

“If they pull the plug on it (modernization), the West Plant needs to start worrying,” he acknowledged..

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