The future for Hydro’s Kurri Kurri smelter remains shaky, with the multi-national posting another dismal quarterly financial report.
“We will continue our restructuring efforts, reduce costs and take firm actions required to keep a steady course,” Hydro president and chief executive Svein Richard Brandtzæg said.
An Australian spokesman for the Norwegian company defended its position in relation to the Kurri Kurri plant and its 400-plus staff yesterday.
“The quarterly result of Hydro as a corporation does not affect decisions on the future viability of the Kurri Kurri plant,” he said.
In January it was forced to scale back production and make 150 people redundant, citing the high Australian dollar and low aluminium prices as the reasons.
The lack of a maintenance schedule has raised new concerns for existing employees, the Australian Workers Union said.
A Hydro spokesman refused to say what, if any, maintenance plans it had for the remaining two potlines.
“The maintenance schedule for the potlines is commercial-in-confidence,” he said.
The spokesman said it had placed 78 staff in new employment since January and 42 had retired.
AWU Newcastle branch secretary Richard Downie commended Hydro on this but was concerned for the remaining workers.
“The current situation is that there is no current pot relining ongoing,” Mr Downie said. “When a pot is taken out of service, well then you’re not producing aluminium, and it is expensive to restart it.”
Hydro engaged training specialists Pathways in January to help in the re-employment of workers.
“Hydro is continuing to work with outplacement services provider Pathways on a further 21 persons to assist them with their job search efforts,” the spokesman said.
Hydro’s underlying earnings before financial items and tax amounted to $94 million (Australian) in the first quarter, down from $191m the previous quarter. “Continued weak demand and low aluminium prices weigh down first-quarter results.” Mr Brandtzæg said.