News

TWC: 25% of laid off have jobs

$2.3 million in federal funds sought for training, job search after Alcoa closure
By KEN ESTEN COOKE Reporter Publisher

Roughly a quarter of those laid off when Alcoa closed its Rockdale Operations have found work, local Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) officials said.

Last week, the TWC announced that it has requested a $2.3 million National Emergency Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. It will be used to assist the hundreds of workers impacted by the closure, to provide for additional expenses in training and job searching.

"Many workers are still relying on their sub pay," said Cindy Jerman, business development specialist for the Central Texas Workforce Center, of the workers "supplemental union benefit." Sub pay is combined with unemployment to provide former employees with about 50 percent of their previous income. "About 25 percent have been employed, those who were proactive when the layoffs were announced. A lot of those got picked up by Luminant."

She said others went with BECON, the company constructing Luminant's Sandow 5 power plant, but some of those have been laid off again as that project wraps up.

Jerman said she hopes the grant funding can help with additional training that will get workers placed once the economy picks up and more hiring begins.

"I worry that about this time next year, when sub pay starts to run out, we'll have a panic," Jerman said. "I don't want 300 to 400 in our area to all of a sudden say, 'I need a job'."

Grant funds

The additional funds will help Alcoans and those from 20 different suppliers affected by the layoffs.

Jerman said local workers qualify for special retraining benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act because the Dept. of Labor declared their jobs "had gone overseas."

Jerman's office, Workforce Solutions Central Texas, is taking the lead for outreach and services for locally affected workers.

"These will be case-managed and some of the money will be used for additional expenses and maybe some emergency items," Jerman said.

She said many workers have been doing handiwork, some of which requires licensing fees. Workers can request funding for such fees on their road to employment.

Some may also qualify for more educational opportunities.

Many, she said, have settled for less pay. Others are training for a completely different industry, such as health care.

Jerman said she doesn't want to see workers take in 18 to 24 months of unemployment and sub pay, then have nothing coming in and no job.

"It's an employer's world right now, not an employee's world," she said.

'Make them competitive'

"Such a sig nif ic a nt layof f requires additional resources for job-search services and training," said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton.

TWC Rapid Response provides short-term, immediate assistance with layoffs or plant closures affecting a significant number of workers.

Workers will receive assistance with job-search activities on WorkInTexas.com, TWC's online, job matching Web site. Other services include information on high-demand occupations, as well as stress management and financial management seminars.

"TWC Rapid Response services are available to Texas employers and workers prior to and during any layoff," said TWC Commissioner Representing the Public Andres Alcantar. "Intensive jobsearch and training services help workers return to work more quickly."

In September 2008, A lcoa announced plans to close down six production lines, and subsequent announcements included notification of a complete plant closure with 918 total jobs lost.

The impacted workers are members of United Steelworkers Union, Local 4895.

Gattis statement

State Rep. Dan Gattis said he supports the effort to secure funding.

"I have worked with the TWC to address the needs of many individuals who lost their job at Alcoa," Gattis said. "The Alcoa closure has had a profound impact on families throughout Milam County.

"The entire community is doing what Texans do when times get tough — pulling themselves up by the bootstraps."


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2009-05-28 digital edition



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