SENIOR executives of the company planning the closure of Northumberland’s biggest private sector employer have been asked to visit the site and explain the decision to workforce representatives and local politicians.
Bosses of Anglo-Australian minerals giant Rio Tinto are being urged to take up the invitation to come to the Alcan aluminium smelter in Lynemouth, where 512 jobs are on the line following the recent decision to shut it down.
The invitation has been extended by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery – supported by the GMB union – who would use such a meeting to call on the company to review the decision, or at least allow more time for a potential buyer to come forward.
Mr Lavery made the suggestion to local Rio Tinto Alcan management at a recent meeting involving himself, the GMB, the county council and other political representatives.
It was held as part of the union’s Save Our Smelter (SOS) campaign, which is using posters and a mass petition to seek Government support to avoid the “catastrophic” loss of the smelter.
Yesterday Mr Lavery said: “I have asked local Alcan management to request a meeting between local politicians and workforce representatives and the people at Rio Tinto who actually made the closure decision.
“I would like to ask the company decision-makers to look at it again, bearing in mind the current austerity measures, review it over a period of time and allow more time for someone to come in and buy all or part of the smelter.
“They could look again at the whole operation of the plant and profit margins, considering the economic climate and the loss to the community. We don’t want to be sitting here in five years’ time saying we should have tried this. We need some answers from senior managers at Rio Tinto and I hope they will agree to this.”
Last week Alcan management said no credible offers had so far been tabled to acquire and run the smelter.
GMB regional organiser Keir Howe said she hoped the company would agree to the MP’s request for a meeting, and also to provide more information about potential interested parties in the smelter.
She said: “We believe that potential buyers could meet with Rio Tinto Alcan and the Government to see what assistance could be provided for anyone who is genuinely interested in buying the site.
“So far Rio Tinto have refused to provide details of those interested parties, even when the GMB has asked for them. The union has concerns that Rio Tinto have chosen to rule out interested parties as not credible, when in fact, they may be.”
The SOS petition closes on January 6 and will then be presented to ministers.
Rio Tinto Alcan announced last month that it proposes to close the smelter and sell the Lynemouth power station, where a further 111 people work. It is currently running a formal 90-day consultation on the proposals, which has been extended by two weeks to the end of February.
Nobody was available for comment at Alcan yesterday.