Smelter workers find new jobs after closure

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ALMOST three quarters of the workforce who lost their jobs when Rio Tinto Alcan’s doomed Lynemouth plant closed have found new employment.

The aluminium plant shed 360 jobs when the power supply to the smelter was switched off in March, and more will follow when it ceases operation at the end of the year.

But work to keep those who were employed at the site in jobs is still ongoing.

At a meeting for stakeholders last week, Site Director David Ian Jones said: “Three hundred and sixty 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 other employment, 63 are involved in the current decommissioning process, ten were transferred, 17 took voluntary redundancies, five went into further retraining and 109 are unemployed.

Those on apprenticeships were also found work at alternative firms.

Mr Jones added: “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.

“Job Centre Plus is 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 for local people.”

Work has now started on the early stages of planning permission for the potential demolition of buildings on the site.

Rio Tinto Alcan’s Regional Economic Development Director John McCabe 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 outlined planning for potential demolition. 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 discussed the creation of the Rio Tinto Legacy fund that will be focused on providing support for the local economy, charities, voluntary organisations 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 available on a new website.

The site will be regularly updated with the latest news about the plant and will also offer a question and answer section, Twitter feed and what’s on area.

Mr McCabe said: “We are thrilled to launch our new website, which will keep our community and stakeholders up to speed with our regional economic development and legacy programmes.

“The website provides a useful interactive forum, which enables users to submit questions and offer feedback, so we’d encourage anyone in our local area with a specific query or suggestion to get in touch.”

The site can be found at www.rtalynemouth.co.uk