The vats stop. The one that had been the red line of the struggle of the workers of the last factory of Alcoa in Spain, the of San Cibrao (Cervo, Lugo), has been transferred for the sake of a better industrial future as of 2024. The workforce of The Navy has said “yes” – with a 70% of the votes– the shutdown of the electrolysis tanks and the consequent cessation of activity proposed by Alcoa for two years, with the promise of negotiating electricity rates and resuming production in 2024. Until then, Spain is left without any primary aluminum manufacture and this is a “real hecatomb”, according to the president of the works council, Jose Antonio Zan.
The count in the early hours of this Wednesday made clear the position of the workers. Of the 1,063 registered -between the aluminum plant and the alumina plant-, the votes cast were 808, and of them, 663 in favor (69.68%), 196 against (24.26%), 40 blank (4.95%) and 9 null (9.11%). In the contracting companies, which could also exercise this right, the picture was different: the ballots totaled 180, and of these 105 were against (58.3%), 54 in favor (30%), and 21 blank (11 , 7%).
The agreement ends about two years of bitter labor conflict in San Cibrao, in which the first scenario that the company raised was the closure. Neither the alleged public intervention nor the sale to another industrial group came to fruition at this time. Nor was the company able to apply the massive layoff it planned, declared void by the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia a year ago – with the ban on stopping the vats – and for the Supreme definitely this fall. It was from then on that Alcoa presented a “long-term” proposal for San Cibrao, which for the first time was going to remain as a manufacturer. It is the one that the workers have just accepted as option “less bad”. With it, they lift the indefinite strike that they have maintained since September and enter a phase of social peace, with the tranquility of continuing to collect their salaries during the cessation of activity and with the commitment of the company that the facility will be improved with an investment of 90 million euros (103 million dollars) for its “future viability and growth of the plant, including the restart of the electrolysis cells” in 2024, a restart that entails technical complexity and a high economic cost.
As he government as the Board Galicia have accepted this decision as good. The Ministry of Industry He recalled yesterday in a statement that Alcoa San Cibrao is the only primary aluminum factory that remains in Spain —after the shutdown of the vats of A Coruña and Avilés, current Alu Ibérica, in 2019 – and valued this agreement “because it guarantees the employment and investments in the San Cibrao factory that are necessary to achieve the viability of the plant”, in the opinion of the minister Reyes Maroto, “And shows its commitment to turn A Mariña into an industrial pole with a future just as the Government had defended from day one.”
The Board, which had already anticipated that the stoppage of the vats would be a “false start” to the conflict, also supported the workers’ resolution. From the opposition, the secretary of industrial policy of the PSdeG, Angel Mato, claimed “priority” to the implementation of renewable energy and “energy storage” technologies in the environment of the factory industry. The coruñesa Greenalia has already signed a preliminary agreement with Alcoa to supply electricity at a good price to San Cibrao from the wind farms it develops in the area.
Employment is protected for four years
Alcoa lured the San Cibrao workers in its “final offer” with a package of labor measures that appease the anxiety of those who have been on the wire for two years, threatened with closure. To begin with, the company guarantees that it will not apply “no employment regulation process [ni ERE ni ERTE] in the next four years”. In addition, all the workers on the workforce will keep their salary during the two years of cessation of activity of the electrolysis tanks and the anode plant. Even those who are not on the staff, because “Alcoa It undertakes to extend the current contracts of the contracting companies directly affected by the shutdown for three years and “will prioritize the hiring of local transport and supply companies.” Payrolls will even be improved, since the multinational’s offer includes the signing of a new collective agreement, valid from 2020 to 2025 and a 2% salary increase in each of those years. Even so, the workers “are going to spend the worst moments of their lives with those tanks turned off,” said the president of the committee, José Antonio Zan, yesterday, who places his hopes on the improvement of electricity prices, those that now generate “some extraordinary financial losses ”in San Cibrao according to Alcoa. The alumina refining plant will continue to operate and so will the smelter. The electrolysis finally stops.
Looking for a buyer for Alu Ibérica
While Alcoa pacts an industrial future in San Cibrao, the two factories it got rid of in 2019 (in a sale investigated for possible fraud), those of A Coruña and Avilés (Alu Ibérica), they are in bankruptcy. The Minister of Industry of the Principality of Asturias, Enrique Fernández, communicated yesterday to the Avilesino committee of Alu Iberica that it is in talks with possible investments for the company, but that it is still too early to make an announcement, for which, according to the unions, a period of two months has been given.
“He has told us what we already knew, that there was no cash and that there is not enough capacity to maintain the services and everything else that the productive activity requires,” explained the chairman of the committee, Jose Manuel de la Uz, after also contacting the bankruptcy administrator. The expectations for this meeting were placed on potential investors, but “the Principality does not say much either,” de la Uz lamented. For its part, Board He promised to find a buyer, but at the moment he has not reported this process. The Coruña committee does not provide any information either.