CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Century Aluminum retirees who struck a deal for a partial restoration of their health benefits last year now say their agreement with the company has become a "dead letter," with no possibility of becoming valid.
"We are livid," said Century retiree spokeswoman Karen Gorrell.
Century closed the plant during the height of the economic downturn in 2009, leaving more than 650 people jobless.
Compounding the trouble, Century ended health care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees in 2010. Early retirees between the ages of 55 and 65 lost their coverage in 2011.
The company said the cuts were needed to control costs at the plant in case it were to be reactivated.
Last February, a group of retirees from the Ravenswood aluminum smelter struck a deal with company executives for a partial restoration of health benefits.
The deal was supposed to help get the green light for a restart of the shuttered plant, but that restart never occurred.
The settlement called for reinstatement of about $4 million worth of benefits per year. To contrast, Century has said the total elimination of all benefits saved the company about $18 million per quarter.
Now, Gorrell says retirees have been advised their deal with the company is on the verge of being nullified.
She said she has been told the agreement is in effect a "dead letter" because it will likely not be finalized in court before a significant deadline.
Retirees had asked a federal court to reinstate their benefits. The agreement last year was intended to resolve that case.
"The settlement agreement was never finalized and presented to the court," Gorrell said. "If the settlement agreement were presented to the court today, the conditions like court approval which were part of the settlement could not now be completed by the July 1, 2013, expiration date of the settlement."