Alcoa spending $2.2 billion to improve efficiency in Quebec plants

Aluminum giant will improve efficiencies with smaller workforce, avoid layoffs

MONTREAL—Alcoa’s $2.2-billion plan to improve efficiency at its Quebec facilities will allow the aluminum giant to transition smoothly to a smaller workforce without layoffs, the president of the Canadian division said.

“We aren’t waiting for a crisis to do major layoffs, we will (adjust) progressively using natural attrition and by putting money in at the same time to improve the productivity of our operations,” said Alcoa president Pierre Morin.

It has committed to spend another $1 billion, including $400 million to improve the competitiveness of its Deschambault smelter and Becancour rod plant.

The remaining $600 million will be used for equipment maintenance, installation of new smelting ovens and health and safety projects.

An estimated 35 per cent of its 3,400 employees in Quebec are eligible for retirement by the end of 2015, when the total investments are slated to be completed.

Morin said the number of positions that will be eliminated or replaced is still unknown.

In 2008, Alcoa announced a $1.2-billion investment to expand annual production of its smelter in Baie Comeau by 110,000 tonnes to 548,000 tonnes. The facility will still have room to expand further, if required.

About $100 million of the total investment will be spent this year to improve the operation of its four primary aluminum plants in Quebec.