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Iron-worker union official: Alcoa should hire local

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MASSENA - A local ironworkers union official urged Alcoa to hire locally if it chooses to move ahead on the modernization of its Massena operations.

Local 440 Business Manager Robert J. Cole said the proposed $600 million plus project would do a lot to help the struggling area economy. Mr. Cole said he does not want to see a repeat of a recent project to repair the roof of a fire-damaged casthouse, which was contracted to an out-of-state company.

Mr. Cole charged Alcoa had done a disservice to the local economy hiring an out of state firm to handle the work.

“Each dollar you spend locally employs people locally. If no money’s being spent in the local town, it damages the whole area,” he said. “It keeps the north country moving.”

Mr. Cole said that although smaller jobs had been awarded to contractors from outside the region in the past this project was the largest.

He also claimed the group had hired its workers through an ad posted on CraigsList.com, calling the workers unqualified to safely handle the job. In addition, he charged that the workers relied on a system of colors to guide them in repairing the roof, implying the workers were not qualified to follow blueprints or know how the construction materials should be attached to one another.

“Their workers are not qualified or safety-trained. They just go and say, ‘Do this’ and they do it, but sometimes (unskilled laborers) get hurt,” Mr. Cole said. “They’re not qualified and maybe there will be safety concerns, unless it was inspected by (officials from the U.S. Office of Competition and Economic Analysis).”

Last September, local ironworkers picketed outside of Alcoa’s West Plant to speak out against the hiring of CCC Group. The contractor brought 24 of its own workers here and hired four local employees, Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr said previously. That drew the ire of Ironworkers Local 440, which had planned to hire 32 of its own to work there.

Mr. Cole believes local ironworkers would already completed the months ago in an effort to avoid the harsh winter weather. He feels CCC Group was not adequately prepared for the region’s winter weather. “My men, as ironworkers, would have done the project on time or ahead of schedule,” he said.

Mr. Cole pointed out that to become a union member one must complete 6,000 work hours, a process which gives unionized ironworkers four to five years of experience.

“We teach them everything they need to do for iron working,” he said.

Code Enforcement Secretary Avis Hazelton said to the best of her knowledge the roofing project is near completion and former Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe didn’t encounter any significant issues with the project.

Mr. Fregoe, who resigned from his post Jan. 22, declined to comment on the quality of the work.

Ms. Marr said Alcoa had deemed CCC Group’s performance adequate.

“The casthouse roofing work has been done according to the project specifications and Alcoa is satisfied with the work,” Ms. Marr wrote in a statement.

Ms. Marr declined to comment on Mr. Cole’s specific claims.

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