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Alcoa union network supports Italian workers’ fight against plant closure

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6 September, 2012IndustriALL’s Alcoa global union network has pledged support to workers in Portovesme in Italy fighting for the future of their plant. Unions representing workers in the plant have been working around the clock to find ways to keep the workers’ jobs.

Despite Alcoa announcing its decision to close the plant earlier this year, and its intention to begin shutting down parts of the plant, the unions have successfully been able to temporarily halt these plans while seeking other solutions to closure. The latest has focused on finding a potential buyer for the operations and talks have been held with the Swiss company Glencore. As a result of these efforts Alcoa has promised to keep all workers employed until the end of the year.

All hope is not lost for the plant and the attempts in Italy to keep the plant open follow similar situations elsewhere in Europe. Unions in the UK successfully managed to keep open a plant in Teesside despite the threat of closure by its owners TATA Steel group. The UK unions oversaw the sale to SSI Thailand and the operations are now continuing. The unions in Italy hope that they can also put together a rescue package that will see the plant remain open.

The situation at Portovesme is being closely monitored by the Alcoa global union network and unions that make up the network have pledged support to the Italian workers in their battle. High energy prices have been blamed as one of the key factors for the shut down with labour costs only a small part of the total fixed costs.

When faced with a similar situation in Australia the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) campaigned vigorously to keep open the Point Henry Smelter and succeed in putting together a 42 million (AUD) rescue package that saved the plant.

Liam O’Brien, AWU National Organizer, said, “In these tough times for Aluminum workers its essential that governments show the necessary support to ensure the future of the industry and have strong industrial polices that support jobs.”

The largest union in Alcoa, the United Steelworkers (USW), has also pledged support to the Italian unions in their struggles. Jim Robinson, USW Director District 7, said, “We are closely monitoring the situation in Alcoa Italy and support the efforts of the unions to keep the plant operational. Our union and our members at Alcoa will stand in solidarity with these workers in their fight.”

Alcoa has operations in 31 countries and its operational headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The IndustriALL Global Union network has developed a strategy of meeting the day prior to the company’s shareholders meeting.