Alcoa shareholders must demand a quick resolution to Quebec lockout
PITTSBURGH, May 9, 2018 /CNW/ - About 100 locked-out workers from the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Quebec, are demonstrating today outside the annual general meeting of Alcoa shareholders at Pittsburgh's Westin Hotel. They are protesting the lockout imposed by the company on Jan. 11 and its refusal to negotiate a settlement since then.
The main sticking points are pension plan funding and seniority rights in personnel hiring and transfers.
"We're here to tell the shareholders that they will lose on the deal if the lockout continues," said Alain Croteau, United Steelworkers (Syndicat des Métallos) Quebec Director, who addressed the demonstrators before entering the convention centre to attend the shareholders meeting.
"With the costs associated with shutting down and restarting two pot lines at the smelter, combined with reduced production, this lockout has already cost ABI some US$164 million in lost income – and counting," Croteau said.
"The company has now indicated its intention to come back to the bargaining table. So we are asking the shareholders to make sure that this meeting will be meaningful and definitive, with company negotiators fully empowered to settle the dispute."
Locked-out Quebec Steelworkers drove for more than 15 hours from Bécancour to be heard by Alcoa shareholders and to denounce an "absurd" lockout. Five representatives of the Steelworkers union, holding proxy powers to represent shareholders, will join the shareholders' meeting and address Alcoa executives.
"Our members are determined. We're not coming here hat in hand," said Steelworkers Local 9700 President Clément Masse.
"Does the company really have to continue to rack up losses before settling? This lockout makes no sense. We have come to ask the shareholders to make a difference in terms of how long this dispute lasts. Today is the one day they can hold their executives accountable. Prices are good and the Midwest Premium is up, so it's totally in Alcoa's interests to produce at full capacity. For our part, we're ready to do what we do best: make high-quality aluminum," Masse said.
Shutting down and restarting the smelter's pot lines costs some $100 million, while ABI's lost monthly profits due to production slowdowns amount to at least $16 million. The Steelworkers believe these estimates are very conservative, in that they do not account for losses associated with lost production of profitable, value-added products such as aluminum plates and billets.
- Alcoa, which holds 74.9% of ABI shares, and Rio Tinto, which holds 25.1%, decided to lock out ABI employees on January 11, 2018. Immediately prior to the lockout, the union bargaining committee had opened the door for employees to migrate their pension holdings from a defined-benefit plan to a member-funded pension plan. This compromise addressed all of the concerns expressed by shareholders who wanted to eliminate pension plan liabilities from the financial statements. Only the funding terms and conditions remained to be settled by the parties at the time.
- The only other major outstanding issue is respect for workers' seniority rights in personnel transfers. Workers want all job vacancies to be posted in the plant first before being opened to outside recruitment.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
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