Ormet workers facing deadline

Ormet Corp. workers who left their job sites in August, prior to the full shutdown of the smelter plant in October, will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of this month.

As Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, tries to pass a bill giving Gov. John Kasich the power to force American Electric Power, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Ormet to renegotiate the aluminum company’s electricity agreement, the 1,000 displaced workers are rapidly running out of time.

“The unemployment lasts for six months. Those who took the early layoff in August will lose them at the end of this month,” said Amanda Kastrevec, secretary at United Steelworkers Local No. 5724 at Ormet.

Reviewing some paperwork for displaced Ormet employees at the Monroe County Department of Job and Family Services office in Woodsfield are, from left, Laverne Shapley, a case manager for the federal Workforce Investment Act, Jeanette Harter, Monroe County director and Bill Long, workforce unit supervisor.

In an effort to help those affected by the plant’s closure and the loss of benefits, here will be a a “food and relief drive” Feb. 21 and 22, with assistance in everything from health insurance to tax returns to mental health counseling. Call the union hall at 740-458-1345 for information.

One year ago, Ormet filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Delaware.

The company later announced a planned $221 million sale to Minnesota-based Wayzata, but emphasized this transaction required convincing the PUCO to allow Ormet to have lower AEP bills. Company officials had wanted Ormet to generate its own electricity by late 2015, via a planned natural gas power center.

In an effort to cut its electricity costs, Ormet shutdown four of its six potlines by August, leading some more senior union members to take a voluntary layoff so that younger workers could stay on the job.

In October, the PUCO decided to lower Ormet’s electric costs from $60 to $50 per megawatt-hour, rather than down to the $45.89 per megawatt-hour Ormet requested.

The commission further denied Ormet’s request to transition to retail choice for electricity purchases in 2014, ordering the company to honor its current contract with AEP through December 2018.