EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSCENTURY ALUMINUM VOTE
from Eyewitness News Online
B R E A K I N G N E W S !Century Retirees Vote In Favor Of Plan Partially Restoring Health Benefits
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Mar. 15, 2012 9:02 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 15, 2012 10:46 PM EDT
Ravenswood , Jackson County , West Virginia
Retirees of a West Virginia aluminum plant have accepted a deal that should partly restore their health benefits.
Thursday's evening vote in Jackson County was a key hurdle as Century Aluminum seeks state aid to restart its idled smelter.
The Ravenswood plant employed around 650 people when it shut down in 2009. The company then began cutting off retiree health coverage. Karen Gorrell has helped fight for the lost benefits. She estimated that more than 400 retirees attended Thursday's meeting.
"We get a chance to stay around and see our grand-babies grow up, maybe. And so, how can you say no to that? You can't be greedy in this situation," said Gorrell.
"Really, when you look at it, it's inspirational to see that many people to come and want to go to work, and want to get their lives back, and really get back to work," said Del. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson County.
Gorrell said Century has agreed to pay at least $44 million over the next decade toward coverage. Retirees not yet eligible for Medicaid would pay premiums. Gorrell said benefits for older retirees are still being discussed.
Lawmakers now expect to consider a $20 million tax break for Century on Friday.
Century Aluminum retirees have voted in agreement on a plan that would partially restore their health benefits and pave a way for the plant to re-open.
Both sides met in Pittsburgh last month to work out the details on a plan and the retirees voted in favor of it Thursday.
It's estimated Century would re-open with about 450 jobs, paying an average of $60,000 a year.
After another year, another 80 to 100 jobs would be added.
650 people lost their jobs when Century Aluminum closed its Ravenswood plant three years ago.
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