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Bluff smelter to accelerate job cuts plan

Bluff smelter to accelerate job cuts plan

Sept. 5 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand Aluminium Smelters is accelerating plans to axe 100 jobs from its Bluff smelter as depressed global metal prices continue to challenge the aluminium sector worldwide.

The smelter at Tiwai Point had announced in August last year that it was reducing its workforce of around 750 by 100 positions over a five-year period, but will now complete that process over the next two months, said general manager Ryan Cavanagh. Some 35 positions had already gone by attrition as staff left the business in recent months.

Rio Tinto owns 79.4 percent of the smelter, which is one of 13 older plants the multinational is seeking to sell from its global portfolio, and is one of several placed under the banner of a new subsidiary, Pacific Aluminium, which includes Australian assets.

As the consumer of around one-seventh of all electricity generated in New Zealand, NZAS also wants to renegotiate the terms of a 27-year electricity contract with Meridian Energy, which is due to take effect from next year.

The smelter, which has been operating since 1971, made losses in the past two financial years, although other Rio Tinto subsidiaries in New Zealand, also allied to the smelter, appeared to be profitable, according to Companies Office records. NZAS has not responded to questions on this issue from BusinessDesk.

The smelter is currently running only three of its four smelting potlines, meaning about 15 percent of the plant isn’t in production.

"The decision to bring forward plans to reduce the size of our organisation has not been taken lightly," said Cavanagh in a statement. Redeployment within NZAS or the wider Rio Tinto group would be explored.

"NZAS is facing tough economic headwinds. Therefore, it is imperative that we take urgent action right across our business to make the smelter resilient in any market conditions," Cavanagh said.


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