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THE impending closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter is the most devastating local news that I have read since coming to Northumberland in 1968.

It is bad news for the employees and for their suppliers and local communities.

It appears that the closure is due to the requirements of the EU, for reduction of pollution from the plant.

After 40 years of operation, why has pollution suddenly become such an urgent issue?

Are the real factors not those of the company being able to invest more profitably elsewhere?

Is the EU directive not really intended to aid mainland European aluminium producers by reducing competition at a time when world demand is in decline?

Would an acceptable reduction in remuneration being paid to the workers not be sufficient to make the plant sufficiently cost-effective to be able to overcome competition?

Is a reduction not more acceptable than job seekers benefit, given the present international financial situation?

In times of buy-out trading, the trades union people have said that the common enemy was the employer.

But now in a world of surplus labour, a worker’s worst enemy is another worker.

The Alcan story underlines the difficulties that have been caused by management capitulating to greedy trades unions making it now more difficult to export, which is the very life blood of our island nation.

Investment from overseas is great in good times but all too often that investment is withdrawn when the going gets tough.

Britain can only sell more by becoming more price competitive.

How can that be achieved when trades union members threaten to withdraw their labour from public sector, over pensions payments?

Just a thought: How many Alcan workers, their trades unions or pension providers are Rio Tinto shareholders?

NORMAN F BATEMAN,

By email