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Union leaders expect to have answers next week for Alcoa East plant employees

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MASSENA — As Alcoa executives have met with the New York Power Authority and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to discuss how the planned shutdown of the Alcoa East plant will affect the long-term hydropower contract, the company also has been in talks with labor leaders to discuss the future of Massena’s blue-collar jobs.

“What we’re doing right now affects bargaining due to the announcement of the decision to close the last two potlines at the East plant,” United Steelworkers Local 450-A President David W. LaClair Jr. said. “We’ve met over the last few days and will continue to meet next week.”

So as not to hamper those negotiations, Mr. LaClair said, he cannot divulge the specifics of what has been discussed, but he said he is glad the company is listening to the union’s concerns.

The negotiations “are still wide open,” he said. “It’s a positive thing we’re still talking.”

Alcoa employs 332 workers, including labor and management, at the East plant. The former Reynolds Metals plant once employed approximately 800 workers.

State officials have pressured Alcoa to avoid involuntary layoffs. Massena officials have said that Alcoa is expected to offer retirement incentives and voluntary layoffs to reduce its workforce. The company’s contract with the state for low-cost electricity from NYPA requires the manufacturer to maintain 900 jobs in Massena. It employs 1,001 here now.

Although workers and local leaders have many questions, Mr. LaClair said, there are few answers available.

“I would say the talks have been very productive. Next week we’ll reconvene and hopefully work through it,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of next week we’ll have some answers for our members.”

Meanwhile, Alcoa announced that its decision to close the East plant is expected to cost the company $90 million to $110 million, according to information filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“On Jan. 15, 2014, the management of Alcoa Inc. approved the permanent shutdown and demolition of the remaining two potlines that employ Soderberg technology at the Massena East smelter located in New York,” the Form 8-K filing states. “The two Soderberg potlines will be fully shut down by the end of the first quarter of 2014. Demolition and remediation activities related to this action will begin in the second quarter of 2014 and are expected to be completed by the end of 2018 and 2020, respectively.”

The filing then details planned expenses as a result of the decision.

“These charges include $35 million to $40 million for the accelerated depreciation of the potlines and related fixed assets; $25 million to $30 million for asset retirement obligations resulting from the planned demolition of the two potlines and related infrastructure; $15 million to $20 million for employee-related costs; and $15 million to $20 million for other related costs. Of these charges, approximately $55 million to $65 million will result in future cash outlays, including $25 million to $35 million in 2014.”

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