Alcoa in Massena to lay off 37 workers at end of February

Thirty-seven Alcoa employees will be involuntarily laid off at the end of February. The company had originally planned to cut 487 positions until a deal to keep the company operating in Massena was negotiated with state officials and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who announced the agreement two days before Thanksgiving. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

Thirty-seven Alcoa employees will be involuntarily laid off at the end of February. The company had originally planned to cut 487 positions until a deal to keep the company operating in Massena was negotiated with state officials and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who announced the agreement two days before Thanksgiving. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

MASSENA — What was originally 487 jobs that would have been lost at Alcoa’s Massena operation has been trimmed to 85, including 37 involuntary layoffs.

The original 487 positions would have been eliminated had Alcoa followed through with plans announced on Nov. 2 to close the Massena East smelter rather than modernizing it, and idling the Massena West smelter.

But, under a deal negotiated with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles E. Schumer and announced two days before Thanksgiving, the company made commitments to keep the plant open for the next 3½ years and maintain 600 full-time equivalent jobs. The agreement is retroactive to Oct. 1 and runs through March 31, 2019.

Company officials announced this week that 85 positions needed to be cut. But, after retirements, voluntary quit packages and transfers, the number of involuntary layoffs was reduced to 37 individuals who will lose their jobs as of Feb. 27, according to Robert A. Smith, United Steelworkers Local 420-A president.

“They reduced our numbers by 85 total. After the voluntary quit, retirement and transfer processes, they posted Tuesday that they were laying off 37 people involuntarily,” he said.

Mr. Smith said seniority was defined by the date workers started at the Massena West plant, so those who transferred after closure of the East Plant weren’t allowed to transfer their seniority and were part of the layoffs.

“When you talk about company seniority, it’s defined as the start date at this location,” he said.

Mr. Smith said even one layoff was too many, but the situation could have been worse.

“One layoff is difficult. If you look at the bright side, thanks to Senator Schumer, Governor Cuomo and Senator (Joseph R.) Griffo and their efforts, 37 is better than 487,” he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the New York Power Authority will provide $30 million in low-cost hydropower to Alcoa. But that reduction in cost will fluctuate if the price of aluminum increases in the global metals exchange market.

NYPA’s Board of Trustees approved the agreement in December, revising a 2014 deal with Alcoa. NYPA is now accepting written comments on their proposed contract, and will take public comments during a hearing scheduled for 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center in Massena. The proposed agreement can be viewed at nypa.gov.

“Under the legislation that created Preservation Power, a public hearing must first be held before any award by our trustees is finalized. This also applies to our Expansion Power and Replacement Power Programs in Western New York,” NYPA Media Relations Manager Steven P. Gosset said. “The hearing is standard procedure for NYPA and was not called specifically because the allocation involves Alcoa.”

Anyone who wants to make statements at the hearing is asked to provide to NYPA, in advance of the hearing, their name and the name of the organization or group they represent. They’re also asked to bring two hard copies of their oral statements and limit their statements to five minutes.

Written statements that are provided by close of business on Feb. 12 will also become part of the record of the hearing.

For more information, call 914-390-8085 or email secretarys.office@nypa.gov.

By Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times

January 2016 Cover Story: Economic Outlook

Slow and steady
growth wins the race

OUTLOOK 2016 / MILITARY: A soldier salutes during the presentation of the colors last year in an activation ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Divarty. As the post avoided major cuts in 2015, Fort Drum officials remain positive that 2016 will be a healthy year for one of region’s top economic sectors. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

OUTLOOK 2016 / MILITARY: A soldier salutes during the presentation of the colors last year in an activation ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Divarty. As the post avoided major cuts in 2015, Fort Drum officials remain positive that 2016 will be a healthy year for one of region’s top economic sectors. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Despite a few challenges, experts say the region is on pace for a positive year in 2016. Six sectors of the north country’s economy are ripe with opportunities for growth.

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A grim fate cast a pall over the north country in early 2015, as federal budget sequestration threatened to cut up to 16,000 personnel from Fort Drum in an effort by the army to trim its active duty force from 490,000 to 450,000 by fiscal year 2017. [Read more…]