Portland smelter jobs safe, says Alcoa

JOBS at Portland Aluminium are in the clear after Alcoa ruled the south-west smelter out of a review process into it’s troubled Point Henry site near Geelong.

Point Henry workers will know in March what the company will do with the smelter, which received a Commonwealth bailout in 2012 that’s set to expire this year. 

But Alcoa has delivered certainty to it’s south-west workforce saying the review process “doesn’t include Portland Aluminium”.  

“It’s not being reviewed ... it’s not being looked at,” a company spokeswoman told The Standard. 

“It’s an ongoing process — we will notify our (Point Henry) employees in March.” 

The Portland smelter has largely escaped the turbulence facing other smelters across the country because of its relative young age and good efficiencies. 

It was mainly absent from special talks last year on challenges facing Portland’s manufacturing sector.

About 500 workers are employed at the smelter.

Australian Workers Union (AWU) Victorian Secretary Ben Davis told The Standard “the prospect is looking pretty bleak” for Point Henry and said Portland would have a limited capacity to take on potentially retrenched workers from Geelong. 

“I think they would be able to absorb some, but not many,” the union boss said. 

The industry is still facing a storm from the high Australian dollar, high energy costs, low product prices and cheap imports. 

“On a macro level there are more people making aluminium than there are buying it,” Mr Davis said. 

“The spot price for aluminium is very low and will probably stay very low for the next couple of years.” 

He said the future of Portland “depends on the high Aussie dollar. If that stays high it’s going to be a real problem for Portland and manufacturing in general”. 

“In Portland we’re keen to make sure that everything runs as efficiently as possible.” 

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