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The Globe and Mail

Alcoa workers protest as Italy tries to stem flood of plant closures

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Italian policemen confront protesting Alcoa Inc. workers in front of the Ministry of Employment building in Rome Sept. 10, 2012. Alcoa has decided to close its Sardinian smelter, putting at risk around 1,500 jobs in an area that has one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy.

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An Alcoa worker displays his protests on a T-shirt.

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The Italian government has received only generic expressions of interest in the Alcoa plant and there is no firm bid on the table, Industry Minister Corrado Passera told Reuters on Sunday.

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Swiss industrial group Klesch offered a possible lifeline by expressing interest in the plant, but Alcoa in an e-mail later said it had “not received any expressions of interest that are viable or different to those previously considered.”

TONY GENTILE/REUTERS

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Baton-wielding police beat back workers trying to break through their lines outside the industry ministry in Rome on Sept. 10, government officials, labour unions and Alcoa executives met inside in a last-ditch effort to head off the shuttering of the unprofitable factory.

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About 600 workers whose jobs are threatened beat their hard hats on the gates, set off large firecrackers and threw missiles at police.

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Riot police pushed the workers back when they tried to storm the ministry’s main gate, causing some minor injuries.

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Italy’s industry ministry said in a statement after the meeting that Alcoa had agreed to slow down the planned closure and that the ministry would be summoning companies that have expressed interest in the plant for talks.

ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

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At the end of July, the industry ministry was mediating in 131 other disputes between companies seeking to cut jobs and unions trying to preserve them, according to a ministry document obtained by Reuters.

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With more than 163,000 jobs at stake, Rome is likely to see more protests in coming months.

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Alcoa said later in an e-mail it would go ahead with the gradual shutdown of the pots used to make aluminum, which began on Sept. 1.

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Riot police stand in front of Alcoa workers. “We will continue the curtailment process and remain open to discuss the sale of a curtailed plant,” the company said.

TONY GENTILE/REUTERS

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