Century negotiates Ravenswood contract, no progress
NEW YORK, Sept 20
NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Century Aluminum Co (CENX.O) continues to negotiate terms of a labor contract that expired last month for its idled aluminum smelter at Ravenswood, West Virginia, but no details have been decided about a plant restart, a United Steelworkers union representative said on Monday.
The Monterrey, California-based primary aluminum producer idled its 170,000-tonne-per-year aluminum smelter at Ravenswood in February 2009, and has given no indication about when it might be turned back on.
Randy Moore, chief negotiator for workers represented by the United Steelworks union told Reuters, "Talks have not broken down, but we're not really getting anywhere. They're not going to do anything."
The labor contract expired on August 31.
Moore said management will not agree to extend the contract, but they continue to come to the bargaining table.
"They want to meet. So, we're working under the terms and conditions of the old agreement. We've got 11 people in the facility and 500 people laid off. They are recognizing the old agreement," the union representative said.
A Century Aluminum spokesman also told Reuters talks with the union were ongoing, but provided no details.
"People see us at the bargaining table and they assume that means they are going back to work. But, we can't get them to say anything about coming back to work or a restart. We can't get them to make any kind of commitment," said Moore.
He said he also doubts whether Century has entered serious discussions with the regional power company for a power deal.
"I can't pin them down on that and I can't pin them down on what the LME (aluminum price) would have to be (to restart the smelter)," he said.
Without specifying, Moore added, at the time Century Aluminum stopped production at Ravenswood, it provided a baseline London Metal Exchange aluminum price as an operating break-even level that has since been reached and sustained "for sometime."
Benchmark LME aluminum for delivery in 3 months MAL3 finished Monday at $2,205 per tonne, well above the near $1,500 price around the time production was curtailed.
"Now, we can't even get them pinned down at all on that. And, there's nothing that they can tell us about whether there will be jobs," the union negotiator said.
The USW union has offered to work on a day-to-day contract extension with a 72-hour escape provision for either party, but Moore said, the company "had no interest."
The only employees at the plant are there for maintenance of the utilities and the premises, like boiler operators, he said.
"Bargaining is useless. We're sitting there arguing over operational mechanics of the agreement and there's not any operation to be had," he said. (Reporting by Carole Vaporean;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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