Alcoa defends cost-cutting as sign of the times

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

[emphasis mine … Michael]

Alcoa shareholders received a lesson in global competition yesterday as union members clashed with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alain Belda at the aluminum maker’s annual meeting at the Westin Convention Center, Downtown.

United Steelworkers union members at Alcoa’s Cressona plant in Schuylkill County complained about concessions on health care and other issues the company has sought during 15 months of contract talks.

One worker charged that despite Alcoa’s vaunted cost-cutting regimen, Belda made enough last year to provide basic health-care benefits for 4,600 workers or pension benefits for 8,000. ‘It doesn’t seem to be like we are reducing and controlling costs,’ the worker said.

Belda, who was paid $6.3 million last year, emphasized that Alcoa must be competitive globally. All over the world, people are willing to work ‘with less rules, less problems, less costs … and that’s what we’re dealing with,’ particularly at U.S. plants, he said.

‘Everyday you wake up, there’s somebody out there saying ‘I want your job.’ That’s true for me. That’s true for you,
‘ Belda said.

Alcoa, which employs about 131,000 in 43 countries, announced plans last month to eliminate 2,000 jobs over the next 12 months.

Belda warned several times that failure to address cost issues could put Alcoa in the same position as General Motors. The carmaker, which pays more than $5 billion annually for health-care costs, this week reported a first-quarter loss of $1.1 billion.

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