Only hours after receiving an offer of assistance from the state’s governor, Pittsburgh aluminium pioneer Alcoa Corp. began laying off workers in earnest at its smelter in Ferndale, Washington, likely signaling the end of production at the plant.
Alcoa began handing out pink slips on Thursday to many of the plant’s 700-strong workforce, giving the first five dozen by Friday of last week. Layoffs are expected to continue this week, reaching up to 400 workers over the next two weeks. Ultimately the firm is expected to retain around 30 people in August, and halving that number over the course of the following year.
Layoffs at the plant came only a day after Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote an open letter to Alcoa’s CEO Roy Harvey volunteering to help broker a deal between the firm and potentially interested parties seeking to buy the aluminium smelter.
“My office has engaged in discussions with your company representatives, and we understand that you do not believe anything can be done to keep this essential business operational,’’ said Inslee. “Nonetheless, we stand ready to help Intalco fully ramp back up, should you choose to do so when global markets improve.’’
Though stating his disappointment that Alcoa’s decision came during the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Inslee pledged the state’s assistance in aiding the plant to remain competitive.
“Washington State has an established infrastructure that allows companies like Intalco to be as competitive as possible, and in 2016, we worked with Intalco executives and federal officials to secure a deal that helped keep the company operational until now. That deal included some of the lowest energy prices in the nation, a tax preference extension worth $2 million per year, and $3 million for worker training and skill enhancement.’’
Unfortunately for Alcoa, the measures were only a small bandage on a large wound, as the firm bled out US$24 million in losses in the first quarter alone.