Locked-out ABI workers reject employer’s offer

Workers demand negotiated settlement: USW

Locked-out ABI workers reject employer’s offer
Alcoa owns a 75 per cent stake in the facility, with Rio Tinto owning the remaining 25 per cent. GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Locked-out workers from the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Que., voted by an 82 per cent majority on March 11 to reject the company’s unilateral contract offer.

The vote came after 90 per cent of the workers — locked out for 14 months — held a meeting to discuss the ABI offer as well as a proposed return-to-work protocol. Members of three separate bargaining units within United Steelworkers (USW), Local 9700 rejected the company’s offer, said the union.

“The offer represented a series of take-backs by the company. ABI has refused to negotiate, it has refused to accept third-party arbitration. It just wanted to impose its will, counting on fatigue from by its 14-month lockout,” said Clément Masse, USW, Local 9700 president. “The government of Quebec must intervene. The imbalance of power is unacceptable and the behaviour of this multinational is unacceptable.”

While only two issues were in dispute when ABI locked out its employees on Jan. 11, 2018, the company added to the list of concession demands with its latest offer, which called for concessions on issues including pensions, seniority, contracting out, eliminating positions, work organization and scheduling, said the union.

ABI’s offer also was accompanied by a unilateral return-to-work protocol, which had not been the subject of any discussion between the parties. The company proposed that locked-out employees would return to work gradually, over a period of at least 10 months and possibly longer, during which time managers and contract workers would take the jobs of regular employees, said USW.

Alcoa owns a 75 per cent stake in the facility, with Rio Tinto owning the remaining 25 per cent.

The USW/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers from all economic sectors.

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