Company shows up empty-handed to conciliation session, dismisses union's compromise settlement proposal.
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, QC, April 3, 2019 /CNW/ - Fifteen months after locking out more than 1,000 employees, management of the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour showed up empty-handed at a conciliation session today and dismissed a compromise settlement proposal from the union.
"The company came to the meeting with its chest puffed up, emboldened by the Premier's recent inappropriate statements that took sides against the workers. ABI didn't even bother to respond to our counter-proposal that includes several compromises aimed at reaching a settlement," said Clément Masse, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700, representing the 1,030 locked-out ABI employees.
"The company refused to resume formal negotiations. Worse still, it continues to dangle the threat of shutting down the last pot line that is operating in the plant," Masse said.
"Clearly, the Premier's inappropriate intervention in the dispute has added fuel to the fire and is undermining the prospects for a resolution."
ABI is standing by a previous proposal that was rejected by an 82% majority of locked-out workers in a March 11 vote. The last ABI offer demanded even greater concessions from workers than the company's demands that led to its lockout of workers 15 months ago.
ABI, co-owned by aluminum giants Alcoa (75% stake) and Rio Tinto (25%), locked out its workers on Jan. 11, 2018.
On March 27, in the National Assembly of Quebec, Premier François Legault derided the energy contract between the government, Hydro-Québec and Alcoa. He characterized the contract as "junior stuff," saying he had "fallen off my chair" when he learned of its provisions.
The Premier was highly critical that the contract allows Alcoa to classify its lockout as an 'Act of God' in order to avoid its electricity-purchasing commitments with publicly owned Hydro-Québec. Hydro-Québec has confirmed it lost $165 million in revenues in 2018 alone as a result of the lockout.
"However, now François Legault is admitting he is powerless to break these energy contracts, and he decides to strike out against those who are most adversely affected by this dispute – the workers," said Dominic Lemieux, assistant to the USW's Quebec Director.
"Workers feel they have been abandoned by their government. Remember, this is not a strike, it's a lockout. And the union is not making any demands for more. It has already opened the door to compromises on several issues, including the reduction of more than 100 positions," Lemieux said.
"Already under attack by multinationals that continue to make new demands for concessions and cuts, the workers feel betrayed by a Premier who has decided to take sides with an American multinational rather than workers and their regional economy."
The ABI aluminum smelter already has the lowest labour costs per tonne of production among all of Alcoa's North American operations, and wages are comparable to other Quebec aluminum smelters.
The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Clairandrée Cauchy, United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, 514-774-4001, [email protected]