ALMA, QC, Jan. 24, 2012 /CNW/ - Daniel Roy, Quebec Director of the
Syndicat des Métallos (United Steelworkers/USW), announced on January
12 at a rally in Alma, Quebec, that the USW and unions around the world
are drawing a line in the sand against Rio Tinto after the company
locked out 780 USW Local 9490 members 24 hours prior to its legal
authority to do so under the Quebec labour code.
"Rio Tinto has declared war not only on USW members but on our
communities, on Quebec and on Canada," said Roy. "We believe Rio Tinto
will use its attacks in Alma to begin a major assault on workers and
communities around the globe."
The company is demanding to replace every retiring worker with a
contract worker at half the wages currently earned by current unionized
employees at its Alma aluminum smelter. Rio Tinto informed workers
that it intends to increase the proportion of contract employees from
10.7 to 27 per cent in 2012 alone without consulting the union.
According to Roy, accepting this demand would cause a dramatic downward
economic spiral not only for the workers but for members of the
community which would see income, local business sales and tax revenues
drop precipitously. In less than a decade, as retirements occur, the
proportion of unionized workers will be greatly diminished and workers
will lose their power to protect not only their economic well being but
also their health and safety at the Alma plant where workers are
exposed to extreme heat, explosive materials and toxic chemicals.
The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and the International
Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions
(ICEM), whose affiliates together represent over 45 million union
members throughout the world, have pledged their full support to the
locked out workers in Alma. In a joint letter to Rio Tinto CEO Tom
Albanese, IMF General Secretary Jyrki Raina and ICEM General Secretary
Manfred Warda wrote, "Our two global federations will join an
international campaign announced by the United Steelworkers against Rio
Already offers of support have come from trade unions in the U.S.,
United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Australia and plans are
underway for a series of global actions against Rio Tinto in addition
to continuing actions in Alma and throughout Canada and the U.S.
Ken Neumann, USW Canadian National Director, links the struggle in Alma
to the fight in London, Ontario, where members of the Canadian Auto
Workers at Caterpillar's Electro-Motive Diesel plant have also been
locked out since January 1 after workers rejected demands to
immediately cut wages in half, eliminate benefits and gut pensions.
"Both Rio Tinto and Caterpillar are committing economic rape of Canadian
workers and communities with help from Prime Minister Stephen Harper
who allowed foreign corporations to invade our country without any net
benefit to Canada," said Neumann.
Harper gave approval to the takeovers of Alcan in 2007 by United Kingdom
and Australia based Rio Tinto and of Electro-Motive Diesel in 2010 by
U.S. based Caterpillar. Under the Investment Canada Act, such takeovers
of Canadians companies require foreign companies to demonstrate a "net
benefit" to Canada. Similarly, US Steel acquired two Stelco steel mill
operations in 2007 and proceeded to lock out workers in Nanticoke and
Hamilton and forced USW members to take major concessions. In 2009, after its takeover of Canadian miner Inco Ltd., Brazil-based
Vale forced 3,500 USW members on strike in three locations, resulting
in major pension cuts for newly hired workers.
"We are see an outpouring of support from around Canada and other parts
of the world for the workers in Alma and London that we have rarely
seen in the past," said Neumann. "Yet our own government which should
be standing up for Canadian citizens and workers has been silent."
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Clairandrée Cauchy, Syndicat des Métallos /USW Communications, 514-774-4001, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Joe Drexler, Syndicat des Métallos/USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544 6009, 416-434 7907, email@example.com.