Jobs blow for smelter workers in Fort William

SMELTER HANDOVER 19/12/16 New signage. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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The continued impact of Covid-19 and the uncertainty around Brexit is being blamed for the loss of up to 18 jobs at the Fort William-based Lochaber smelter.

Operators Liberty British Aluminium became ALVANCE British Aluminium as part of a new structure back in February this year but in March the company was forced to furlough around 40 of its workers in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm, part of metals industry tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance group of companies, announced on Tuesday this week it would be scaling back the workforce on a permanent basis.

An ALVANCE British Aluminium spokesman said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has compounded an already difficult commercial environment for aluminium. Given the continued impact of the virus and uncertainty around post-Brexit trade talks, the market is likely to remain challenging for up to 18 months.

‘With regret, we therefore have made the difficult decision to begin a consultation on reducing the workforce at the Lochaber smelter. We will be proposing a reduction of around 15 to 18 jobs.

‘As a responsible employer, we need to balance the welfare of our people with the need to protect the long-term sustainability of the Lochaber smelter, which is a vital piece of Scotland’s industrial infrastructure and valuable contributor to the regional economy.

We will provide appropriate support to those affected – including looking at employment opportunities elsewhere through GFG Workforce Solutions, a redeployment vehicle operated by our parent organisation, GFG Alliance.’

Commenting on this latest jobs blow to the area Frazer Coupland, CEO of Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, said: The global marketplace is a difficult place to work at the best of times.

‘I can only imagine with the world the way it is at the moment it is not making things any easier for those who trade in these markets.

‘I am sure the team at Alvance will have given thorough consideration whilst making  these hard decisions.

‘The Lochaber smelter still remains part of the critical national infrastructure, as the only remaining aluminium smelter in Scotland  and the UK.’

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has been in talks with the company this week and is cautiously optimistic that the business will continue to operate in Fort William.

She said: ‘I realise this will be an anxious time for workers at the Lochaber smelter.

‘This is, of course, difficult news, at a time when many people have come through a tumultuous time during lockdown.

‘Liberty have assured me that they remain fully committed to the site and I, and many others, will no doubt hold them to that. It is almost four years since the smelter was saved, saving over 100 jobs.

‘Although this is difficult news, due to the wider pressures on the industry, it is important to ensure that the smelter continues as a key local employer in recognition of the fact that it employs more people today than it did four years ago.

‘I want to ensure there is as much support in place for the workers as possible. As always, if any constituents wish to speak to me, I am available.’