more than 500 workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Lynemouth plant facing the dole next year have been given a glimmer of hope after it was revealed that a potential buyer has expressed an interest in taking over the smelter.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has said that the unnamed businessman, said to be offering a credible proposition, came forward even before his meeting with Business Secretary Vince Cable two weeks ago.
Mr Lavery admits the potential sale is a long shot, but he has pledged to leave no stone unturned before going down the route of retraining workers for other jobs.
He told the News Post Leader: “We’ve got to find out at the early stages whether anyone wishes to express an interest in buying Alcan as a going operation.
“There has been an expression of interest from a credible individual who has approached Alcan and been shunted away.
“One organisation came forward – obviously the name can’t be disclosed at this early stage – but they are looking towards cobbling a deal together and exploring finances.
“It’s a long shot – that’s very important to point out – but there are people interested who will, over the next couple of weeks, be talking to the government and exploring funding.
“We’ve got to try to see whether there are any interested parties at all, and I welcome the fact that there is someone interested.
“I’ve had a number of discussions with the person, and he already operates aluminium smelters, not on the same scale but he has a good name in the aluminium business.
“There are those who have come forward and expressed an interest and Alcan has classified them as non-credible.
“That’s why I met with Vince Cable and asked for help to re-examine those. Alcan just didn’t seem interested. If anyone came forward, they were immediately swatted away, as if they wanted to get rid of the competition.
“This person contacted me before that. He knew I was speaking to Vince Cable, and we have been in contact since.
“I’m hoping this is something we might resolve. It would be a disappointing situation if we moved on and looked at creating jobs of a different type on the site while there was someone in the wings who wanted to save it in the first place.
“If that’s impossible, and it might prove to be, then at least we tried all eventualities and possibilities.”
The General, Municipal, Boilermakers (GMB) union is also calling on the multinational firm’s management to provide the names of any interested parties it has knocked back.
Regional organiser Keir Howe said: “We await disclosure of this information by the company and will be disappointed if this is not forthcoming.”
“We will continue to fight to save the site and the jobs of hundreds of workers and will be meeting the company again this week.
“The GMB believes Rio Tinto Alcan is not prepared to fight to save the full smelter site and have demonstrated this over the last few months, both through their actions, inaction and words.
“However, management outlined there is a possibility that they could retain three sections of the smelter if they can be run competitively and sustainably.
“These include carbon, casting and the port and would run on reduced manpower and costs.
“We will continue to push the case to save the whole site while also exploring any other avenues to save jobs in casting, carbon and the port.”