Commentary

Waiting game

Alcoa's still there with 87 jobs and 'revenue neutral' smelter

Here's a bit of a newsflash. Alcoa's Rockdale Operations is still there. Most of it isn't operational but the facility is still out there and, according to company officials, is just biding its time.

The Community Advisory Panel to Alcoa (CAPARO) continues to meet and recently Location Manager Royce Haws gave an update of sorts on just what exactly has been going on since the smelter shut down last October.

For starters, there's still a workforce of 87 at Alcoa. That's composed of 41 hourly and 46 salaried employees.

Before the layoffs started, just about this time last year, Rockdale Operations had 1,100 employees.

Interesting but when you add the 87 Alcoa employees to the 185 who will be employed at Sandow 4 and 5, once the new unit opens later this summer, and the 242 employees of Luminant's Three Oaks Mine, that's a total of 514 permanent jobs still in the Rockdale area.

Of course that's not Alcoa of one year ago. But it's not nothing, either.

Haws said the Rockdale Operations atomizer continues to operate but with fewer crews and less work hours.

He said the plant continues to ship carbon to Alcoa's Warwick, Indiana, plant.

But what was probably the most interesting topic Haws addressed is what's happened to the plant's six potlines. Essentially, they've been preserved and could be re-started if the economic situation improves.

Haws' term was "revenue neutral." That means Rockdale Operations' potlines aren't making Alcoa any money but they aren't costing the company anything either.

What has to happen for Rockdale Operations to restart? A lot. For starters the price of aluminum has to go up. Way up. Right now the company says it would cost more to make aluminum at Rockdale Operations than it can be sold for.

Yes the price of aluminum has gone up for the past couple of months. But it isn't even close to last summer's level.

Then there's still the matter of the Alcoa-Luminant lawsuit over power supply. That would still have to be resolved.

So, what's the good news, if there is any? Well, Rockdale Operations is still there, just waiting. For now that's going to have to do.—M.B.


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2009-06-18 digital edition



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