MONTREAL, Feb. 29, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Secret agreements between Rio Tinto Alcan, the government and Hydro-Québec, revealed this morning by Le Devoir, confirm the existence of a net imbalance in the multinational's favour. The company has plenty of time to lock its workers out, make money from electricity surpluses and continue to enjoy subsidies.
"The world has been turned upside-down. The agreement requires RTA to do whatever it can to honour its obligations in case of a war, an uprising, a riot or an earthquake, but if it locks 780 workers out, it gets preferential treatment under this secret agreement. How far will they push things? And the icing on the cake is that this agreement also allows them to sell their surplus electricity for a price equivalent to four times their production costs! The Premier must intervene immediately and force this company to restart negotiations! This region's economic future is at stake," decried Daniel Roy, Quebec director for the USW/Métallos.
Since the lockout first began on December 30, when it was illegally triggered 24 hours before the company could legally do so, the union has sensed that this planned coup by the multinational had been in the works for a long time. "It's curious that the lockout occurred when the cost of aluminum is low and a secret agreement is reached, under which a lockout is deemed a force majeure - thus releasing RTA from its obligations - and electricity can be sold to Hydro for a profit. Add to that the presence of an excessive number of managers: just what's needed to operate during a lockout. This company wanted a lockout and got away with it, because this government allowed the balance of power to become so skewed."
The 2006 agreement, which the government had kept under wraps until today, also stipulates that Quebec will grant a 30-year interest-free loan in the amount of $400 million in exchange for $2.1 billion in company investments. However, the government set virtually no job creation and job retention requirements: the company must create or maintain 740 direct jobs related to these investments, but only for a three-year period. RTA has also been promised $112 million in tax assistance.
"We fully agree that electricity should be used as a tool for economic development. But the government should negotiate with companies as equals and protect workers and the local economy. This secret agreement is being used right now to starve a region and keep 780 workers, who have families to feed, on the street," thundered Daniel Roy.
For further information:
USW/Syndicat des Métallos (FTQ)
For more information:
Clairandrée Cauchy 514 774-4001, [email protected]