RAVENSWOOD - Officials with Century Aluminum say they are still interested in restarting the Ravenswood plant and honoring their commitments to the plant's retirees.
Karen Gorrell, spokesperson for the Century Aluminum retirees, said in a statement that company officials were seeking another agreement to get the plant restarted.
Efforts to get the Jackson County plant back in operation hit a stalemate last fall when company officials could not get approval for a special power rate for the plant from the Public Service Commission.
Officials with Century Aluminum say they are still interested in restarting the Ravenswood plant and honoring their commitments to the plant’s retirees.
Gorrell said the agreement the retirees had originally worked out with the company over a year ago to have some of their lost benefits reinstated was no longer valid with no possibility of actually becoming so. The restoration of benefits to the retirees depended on the plant being back in operation.
''The settlement agreement was never finalized and presented to the court,'' Gorrell said. ''If the settlement agreement were presented to the court today, the conditions like court approval, which were part of the settlement could not now be completed by the July 1, 2013, expiration date of the settlement.
''This being yet another blow to the already bleeding retirees that have been forced to endure so much after Century's corporate decision to eliminate all health care benefits from the dedicated retirees that contributed for decades to ensure the longevity of the industry. We are livid.''
Gorrell said the retirees worked in good faith with the company for an agreement that benefited everyone and allowed for the reopening of the plant to continue. They gave up some things in order for the whole situation to be able to move forward. The retiree group has been critical of the company since the decision was made last fall not to restart the plant under the PSC's ruling.
''Over the past months, that new found trust has been tarnished by false hopes and empty promises and is now being replaced with a new determination to seek the benefits the retirees earned and sacrificed for over the years,'' Gorrell said. ''As days turned to months and now one year has passed, we are forced to realize that the well being of the retirees are of little concern to corporate America.
''There appears to be only one driving force and that is profit at any cost.''
Gorrell said the retirees are far from confident that Century has any true intentions of restarting the Jackson County plant, especially after all the months of hard work and effort so many have already afforded them. However, the retirees are still willing to sit down and work something out with the company.
''The retiree committee stands ready to commence negotiations necessary to put a new settlement into place which would restore retiree benefits, settle the litigation and get the plant up and running again,'' Gorrell said. ''It is now in Century's hands.''
Company spokesman Mike Dildine said Monday restarting the Ravenswood smelter remains an important priority for Century.
''The retiree benefits litigation is ongoing; therefore, due to our longstanding policy, we cannot comment on the details of the litigation,'' he said. ''However, the company remains committed to both restarting the Ravenswood smelter and the agreement it reached with the retirees regarding healthcare benefits, which is conditioned upon a restart of the plant.
''Toward this end, we continue to be actively engaged in discussions with the energy providers to secure energy for the facility at rates that would enable an economic restart and allow the plant to remain viable.''