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Aluminium giant slashes 180 jobs in Valais

Despite the job cuts, Alcan will preserve 900 jobs in the Valais region Keystone

Canadian company Alcan has announced it is to close an aluminium smelter in Switzerland by the end of April 2006, with the loss of 180 jobs.

This content was published on January 12, 2006 - 15:44

The closure of the plant in Steg, canton Valais, comes just seven months after 110 posts were cut at another Alcan plant in the same canton.

The move is expected to result in the loss of 140 jobs for smelter workers and 40 employees in support positions.

A statement from Alcan, the second-largest aluminium company in the world, said the production of primary aluminium at the Steg site had become "economically unsustainable".

"Given the current energy market and despite support offered by the Valais authorities, continuing to operate the smelter would result in significant financial losses," said Wolfgang Stiller, president of the Alcan Primary Metal Group, North Europe.

"The situation is unfortunate as the Steg smelter has been a part of the region's industrial fabric for decades. Alcan will manage the social, human and environmental consequences of [Thursday's] announcement in the most sensitive way," he added.

Help

The company said it would help workers in the search for new jobs.

The Montreal-based firm expects to make a provision for the related costs in its fourth-quarter results.

Switzerland's largest union, Unia, reacted angrily to the news, saying in a statement that the decision was "an arrogant attack against the economic interests of a region".

It condemned the fact that the decision had been taken despite offers of support by the canton, and added that it would "never accept this scorched-earth policy".

For its part, the Valais cantonal government said it was disappointed and surprised by Alcan's announcement.

It added that it had been in discussions with the price watchdog about electricity prices and called on Alcan to defer its final decision on the Steg site until the price issue was resolved.

900 jobs safe

Alcan said that the Steg closure would have no impact on a further 900 people employed in its foundry, rolling and extrusions operations in the rest of the region.

"Alcan has been present in the Valais region for many years and, through our Engineered Products business, the company will remain an active employer in the community," said Michel Jacques, president and chief executive officer of Alcan Engineered Products.

In June 2005, the company announced it was cutting 410 jobs at plants in Switzerland and Germany, a move which it blamed on rising raw material costs, unfavourable dollar-euro exchange rates and tough market conditions in central Europe.

It said extrusion activities at its sites in Singen in Germany and Sierre in canton Valais would be integrated to improve efficiency. The measures affected 300 people in Singen and 110 at Sierre.

Alcan employs almost 70,000 people worldwide and has operating facilities in 55 countries and regions.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Alcan employs 70,000 people in 55 countries.
In June 2005, Alcan cut 110 posts in Sierre in canton Valais.
The company says that latest decision to cut jobs will not affect the 900 Alcan employees left in the region.

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In brief

In October 2000 Alcan merged with the Swiss Algroup, otherwise known as Alusuisse. Formally it was a takeover.

Alcan thereby became the second-largest aluminium company in the world. The American company Alcoa remains the largest.

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