By Ashley M. Casey
The Novelis plant in Scriba has unveiled a new five-year plan for its employees and future job growth, the company announced May 22.
The plan promises to increase benefits to Novelis workers and create 250 jobs by 2019, but the United Steelworkers are questioning Novelis’ timing. The National Labor Relations Board recently charged the plant with unfair labor practices after the plant’s workers voted not to join USW in February.
Scriba plant manager Chris Smith said the five-year outlook has nothing to do with the NLRB’s charges, but is a move toward greater financial “visibility” for Novelis employees. Smith cited the company’s recent $350 million investment — including a $120 million in the Scriba plant — Novelis’ expansion into the automotive market as reasons for the five-year plan.
“This is all about the business and the employees and giving them visibility that we know they will value,” Smith said.
Novelis plans to give workers a 3 percent pay increase each year for the next five years, keep current shift schedules, provide premium overtime rates to hourly workers and maintain pensions for workers who were hired before 2006.
Smith said a two-year extension of retiree health benefits allows “anyone looking to retire in the next three or four years” to plan their retirement more easily.
“From a peace of mind perspective and from the book of business we have now, we were able to commit to keeping that the same,” Smith said of the pension plan.
The Scriba plant currently employs about 850 workers, nearly 600 of whom are hourly employees. The plan looks to hire 250 more people in the next five years.
In addition to creating jobs, Smith said the five-year outlook will stimulate Oswego County’s economy in other ways.
“The workers having more expendable cash in their wallets will have an effect in local communities,” Smith said. He added that Novelis is looking to use local contractors for its upcoming expansion, announced in December 2013.
Jim Ridgeway, a local representative for USW, said while the plan is good news for workers, the plant’s timing is suspect.
“For them to come out and say it has nothing to do with the union … that’s ridiculous,” Ridgeway said.
He added that these increased benefits are a start, but Novelis employees still have “inferior insurance” and reduced retirement benefits.
“They haven’t necessarily got the people back to even from what they took away,” Ridgeway said.
A Syracuse administrative law judge will hear the NLRB’s charges against Novelis June 16.