Overseas investigation into LaFarge worries local workers

Local

A French-based cement company with a plant in Albany County is under investigation for allegedly giving money to terrorists groups to further the company’s business interests.

The investigation raises questions as to how local workers could be impacted. A spokesperson for LaFarge Holcim said its U.S. plants were not involved in any of the alleged actions taken overseas. But people in Ravena and the neighboring communities are still concerned.

“It’s troubling when you hear it,” Coeymans Town Board member Dan Baker said.

Baker used to work at LaFarge in Ravena. He had a hard time comprehending the news.

“I wouldn’t want to see the allegations be true, and I’d like to see them keep operating as they are,” he said.

The cement company is facing charges based on a report that employees at its former plant in Syria were supplying money to third parties tied to armed groups. LaFarge officials said it happened from 2011 to 2014 during the time of the country’s civil war, and they were unaware of what was happening at their subsidiary.

Currently, the plant in Ravena hasn’t been implicated, and Baker doubts any wrongdoing there.

“The local level plant supervision, the unionized employees have all been very good,” Baker said.

Coeymans Town Supervisor Phil Crandall tells me the company is a major part of their community and their neighboring communities.

“They’ve provided jobs; they have helped with our community as far as donating things to the town,” he said.

It brings a lot of money to the area and provides hundreds of jobs.

“It probably reaches out to about 500 people total between the contractors, you know, the vendors, and all the people that work there,” Baker said.

If the investigation were to affect the plant, it’d be a blow to the local economy. But U.S. Congressman John Faso said it’s too early to know as French authorities are still investigating.

“If they are found culpable, then it will be up to the U.S. Treasury Department to determine whether violation of U.S. law took place, and if so, what is the appropriate sanction,” he said.

Baker just hopes for the best.

“I hope it doesn’t go away because we need them,” he said.

LaFarge said no one under investigation remains with the company.

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