CHAM, Switzerland, May 24, 2017 /CNW/ - Shareholders attending Glencore's annual general meeting today were greeted by a boisterous protest of the company's role in a 15-week strike by Steelworkers at Quebec's CEZinc refinery.
"We want to ensure Glencore shareholders understand the issues behind this labour dispute," said Manon Castonguay, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6486, which represents 371 striking employees at the CEZinc refinery in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que., west of Montreal.
The CEZinc refinery is operated by Noranda Income Fund, of which Glencore is the largest shareholder. Glencore also supplies all of the concentrate that is processed at the refinery and is the sole purchaser of the finished product.
CEZinc provoked the labour dispute by demanding concessions, in particular an attack on the workers' pension plan, even though the plan is overfunded.
"We are questioning Glencore's motives for prolonging this labour dispute," said Castonguay, who along with fellow USW representative Luc Julien used shareholder proxies to attend the Glencore AGM and confront corporate executives.
"We are reiterating our willingness to work with the company to pursue efficiencies and cost-cutting options rather than draining the workers' pension fund. But Noranda Income Fund and Glencore continue to ignore our proposals," Castonguay said.
"Shareholders should know what's going on and they should have their say so that the refinery can actually resume normal operations."
Since the strike began on Feb. 12, CEZinc has been cited by Quebec's Ministry of Labour of violating the province's anti-scab law on two separate occasions. The law prohibits the use of replacement workers during labour disputes.
Today's demonstration outside the Glencore AGM was organized by European allies of the striking Quebec Steelworkers, including Switzerland's largest private-sector union, UNIA and IndustriALL Global Union. The groups denounced the refusal by Glencore and Noranda to engage in meaningful negotiations to resolve the CEZinc strike.
Luc Julien, one of the negotiators for the Quebec Steelworkers, encouraged Glencore and Noranda shareholders to demand a return to good-faith bargaining to reach a fair settlement to the dispute.
"You're dealing with the lives of people who do physically demanding jobs in very hot and contaminated working conditions," Julien said.
"This kind of tactic by multinationals, of continually trying to squeeze working and living standards, is outdated and no longer acceptable. Employees should be seen as valued partners who should be able to keep the hard-won gains that were achieved over generations of collective bargaining."
The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Clairandrée Cauchy, USW/Syndicat des Métallos Communications, 514-774-4001, [email protected]