MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC/AP) - Century Aluminum workers met with the head of South Carolina's state-owned utility Friday with the possible closure of their 600-employee plant looming.
The meeting came after dozens of workers picketed Santee Cooper headquarters in Moncks Corner on Thursday.
Century has been buying most of its power from an out-of-state provider with Santee Cooper providing the rest and transmitting the power. Century wants to buy all its power from another provider and pay Santee Cooper for transmitting it.
Santee Cooper says it cannot agree to a rate that would increase costs for other industrial customers. Century says without a new contract, the aluminum plant will close at the end of the month.
Employees of Century Aluminum released this statement to the media after the meeting:
"Eight Mt. Holly employees met with Lonnie Carter and six other Santee employees this morning at 8am. We are disappointed, frustrated and shocked.
Mr. Carter denied our request to tape the conversation and insisted that any details of our conversation should not go "beyond the plant walls." We therefore cannot divulge to the news media any aspect of the conversation.
A literal interpretation of Mr. Carter's demands means that a Mt. Holly employee who is briefed cannot even tell his or her spouse.
We believe the news media—representing the public—has the right to know why a state employee would make a decision that will cost 600 workers their jobs and impose a $945 million negative impact on our community. Mr. Carter has no problem repeatedly making claims publicly that he cannot accept Mt. Holly's proposal because it will increase the rates of other ratepayers, yet now he insists on hiding the details of such an increase, and the basis for his calculation, from the public.
Government is supposed to be transparent. It is obligated to face the scrutiny of the news media and public.
Refusing to giving information to the public and imposing what amounts to a gag order on the participants is exactly the opposite of open government.
Santee Cooper representatives stated that "Century's statement is a distortion of our discussion this morning, which we began by explaining this: Santee Cooper and Century have a non-disclosure agreement that dictates what we can say about negotiations with Century, a binding agreement that Century signed at the beginning of our negotiations. If Century wants to release us from the terms of that NDA, Santee Cooper will gladly speak more freely about the negotiations."
Santee Cooper representatives "encouraged the Century employees to urge their leadership to accept the deal we have on the table."