Two thirds of Alcan staff laid off so far have jobs to go to

Rio Tinto Alcan smelter at Lynemouth.
Rio Tinto Alcan smelter at Lynemouth.

MORE than two thirds of the workforce laid off since Rio Tinto Alcan’s Lynemouth smelter ceased operating in the spring are still in employment, it has been revealed.

The aluminium plant has shed 360 jobs since the main part of the site was shut down at the end of May, and more redundancies will follow in the run-up to the closure of the rest of the complex at the end of the year.

Work to keep those employed at the site in work after they are forced to move on is ongoing, however.

At a meeting for stakeholders held at the plant last week, site director David Ian Jones said: “360 people have left to date, and we have managed to resettle and find alternatives for 70 per cent of those people.

“The other 30 per cent are signing on as unemployed.

“That is a particularly good outcome as we are only a couple of months after people have left.

“We are quite pleased with that level, although obviously we would like it to be at 100 per cent.”

Of those who have left, 136 people went onto find other work, 63 have been brought back to take part in the current decommissioning process, ten were transferred to other sites, 17 took voluntary redundancies and five are being retrained.

Almost a third – 109 in total – are signing on.

Those on apprenticeships were found work at other firms.

“It is a good result so far. We would like to be at 100 per cent, but from where we expected to be, we are well ahead,” added Mr Jones.

“There are a number of people working their notice, and around ten people currently doing so have found work and have employment to go to.

“Jobcentre Plus are funding a local careers fair to help ex-employees and people in the local area, and we have partnered with them to create more job opportunities and access to these vacancies.”

Work has started on securing planning consent for the potential demolition of buildings on the site.

John McCabe, Rio Tinto Alcan’s regional economic development director, said: “We want to make sure there is long-term, sustainable interest in the buildings that we have.

“Otherwise we will demolish them.

“I think there will be more than one occupant, which could be a mix of local, national and international businesses, but let’s see.

“We are formulating a plan, and we have to be flexible. It is not just a case of going with the first offer.

“We need to make sure that we have assessed if there is interest, and who would be best suited to use these buildings, before we decide how to progress.

“We have just started the very early stages of how we might do demolition work on any one of our buildings should that become necessary. We hope we don’t have to do it, but it makes sense to plan in case it does come about.”

Mr McCabe also gave details of the new Rio Tinto legacy fund set up to offer support to south east Northumberland’s economy, charities, voluntary groups and other good causes.

“We have helped the community over the past 40 years, but we hope to increase the money and do it in a much more targeted way,” he said.

“The £65,000 we have given to the Ashington Learning Partnership is a significant amount of money, and it is more that we have ever given before to one organisation.

“We have set no minimum and no maximum as we do not want to rule anything out.”

Details of how to apply to the legacy fund will be made available soon at www.rtalynemouth.co.uk