RAVENSWOOD, July 12 -- Alcan Rolled Products announced Sunday that it has begun an orderly shutdown of its aluminum rolling mill in Ravenswood.
The announcement follows the vote late last week by United Steelworkers Local 5668 to strike at the plant, which is Jackson County's largest employer, starting Tuesday morning.
Members of the union announced Saturday morning they voted down the company's latest contract offer 397-251 and were authorizing a strike within 72 hours -- or at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The contract covers about 700 of the 1,000 workers at the plant.
"Through its negative vote, the local union has placed in jeopardy the future of the plant and the 1,000 jobs that it offers," Alcan-Ravenswood said in a news release Sunday evening.
The company's final offer included wage and pension increases in the two years of agreement along with the preservation of the employees' free health insurance plan, which the news release states is a rarity in manufacturing.
Union staff representative Randy Moore said he would not comment on the union's contract demands. He said that a plant shutdown was expected and supported as soon as the order to strike was issued.
"This is exactly in line for what has been said to transpire," Moore said.
"We gave the notice for the [strike]," he said. "When we can get these issues resolved, we hopefully can start things back up pretty easily."
The total cost the company would have had to pay for the agreement is $64.7 million, the release states. Health care was expected to cost the company $33.5 million alone.
"[Saturday's] action by the union also places in jeopardy the $10 million loan that the state of West Virginia was planning to make to the plant," according to the release. Alcan was expected to use the money to improve the facilities and help the plant remain competitive.
Alcan had also promised to spend $86 million to further upgrade the plant. The company said it would make no further investments in the plant until after a new agreement is reached and operational improvements are initiated.
Morrie Newell, company spokesman, said he would not give any extra information that was not in the press release. The plant is prepared to shut down when the strike is scheduled to start Tuesday.
Last year, Alcan laid off 168 workers at the Ravenswood plant.
Kaiser Aluminum operated the Ravenswood plant between 1959 and 1989 when Century Aluminum -- then called Ravenswood Aluminum -- bought it.
Last February, the plant laid off 651 people when Century Aluminum shut down its smelting plant, which is next to Alcan's plant.
Alcan produces 650 million pounds of rolled aluminum and alloy plate a year, which is used to make airplanes, railroad cars, trucks, boats and armored vehicles.