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Alcoa to shut Auburn plant

43 remaining positions will be phased out by March

Alcoa Inc. on Tuesday confirmed plans to close its Auburn plant, putting 43 out of work.

The news is the final chapter in a long, sad saga that has seen the factory’s employment dwindle in the past decade. Almost 400 worked at the auto and defense parts plant in 2005.

Alcoa’s global footprint has also shrunk by more than half during that period. In 2006, the Pittsburgh-based aluminum company employed 129,000 in 44 countries. Today it has about 61,000 workers in 31 countries.

The Auburn plant, which employs 25 hourly and 18 salaried workers, will wind down operations until March, when it will cease production. No plans have been made for the property.

“While this was a difficult decision made necessary by market conditions, we wanted to give our employees as much notice as possible. We recognize how deeply this impacts them, and we are working to support them through this transition process,” spokesman Monica Orbe said in a written statement.

Hourly employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement between Alcoa and the United Steel Workers of America. Company and union officials will discuss how workers might be compensated after their jobs are cut, a spokeswoman said.

Salaried workers will receive severance and job placement assistance, she said.

Alcoa acquired the Auburn factory in 2000 as part of its merger with Reynolds Metals Co.

Since then, Alcoa has shed thousands of jobs as it has reported quarterly losses that at times have reached into the hundreds of millions of dollars. On Oct. 9, the company reported a third-quarter net loss of $143 million. The corporation also reported having $1.4 billion cash on hand.

The Auburn plant closing continues the company’s efforts to streamline operations, a spokeswoman said.

Despite its cutbacks, Alcoa in May announced plans to invest $90 million on a new operations complex to make aluminum lithium alloys in Lafayette, northwest of Indianapolis. The 115,000-square-foot complex is projected to create about 75 new jobs, bringing the plant’s total employment up to about 800.

sslater@jg.net

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