Portovesme (Carbonia Iglesias)
Portovesme (Carbonia Iglesias), November 2 - The troubled Alcoa aluminium smelter in Portovesme shut down the last of its cells on Thursday, one day ahead of schedule, in the wake of a decision to power down the plant that has pitted workers against the Italian government and the American aluminium giant. ''This is the saddest day,'' said union representatives as they made the announcement. The smelter, which employs hundreds of people in the depressed Sulcis area in southwest Sardinia, is now technically at a standstill. Unions have been in negotiations with the government and Alcoa to try to keep the plant in operation while an alternative buyer is found. In early October the Italian economy ministry said three companies - Klesch industrial group of Switzerland, Italian firm Kite Gen and ''a major Australian company'' - had come forward with serious expressions of interest, but there has been no further word on negotiations. Meanwhile on Friday it emerged that Rome authorities had failed to grant permission for a planned demonstration by 500 Alcoa workers and union representatives outside Palazzo Chigi, the seat of government, on November 6, allegedly due to the large number of people due to be present. ''We will talk to the workers and then see what to do,'' said CISL trades union representative Rino Barca. ''However in light of this situation we cannot rule out other demonstrations, other forms of protest''. Alcoa workers and union representatives have staged a number of high-profile protests in recent months over the decision by the American company to shut down the factory starting September 1. Alcoa has promised to keep all workers at its Portovesme plant employed through the end of the year.