Company courts labour dispute with concessionary demands at Bécancour, Que., aluminum smelter
BÉCANCOUR, QC, Nov. 8, 2017 /CNW/ - The employer's demand for a discriminatory, two-tier pension plan for new workers is jeopardizing contract negotiations at the Bécancour Smelter (ABI), which employs 1,030 workers in the Centre-du-Québec region.
The smelter's unionized employees, members of Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700, categorically reject a discriminatory, inferior pension plan for the next generation of workers.
The potential labour dispute is developing as the Quebec government considers legislative reforms that would prohibit companies from imposing two-tier pension and benefit schemes on young workers.
With a hiring boom expected at the Bécancour Smelter over the next few years, the Steelworkers union is rejecting any change that would discriminate against new workers.
"We all do the same work and there is no reason why newly hired workers should not be entitled to the same pension plan," said Clément Masse, Steelworkers Local 9700 President.
"The company is trying to tighten the screws and create division among workers. Employers have to understand that, in Quebec, we reject discrimination against new workers. It is simply not acceptable," Masse said.
Aside from ABI, other employers have tried to introduce two-tier pensions schemes on Quebec Steelworkers. Several ran into a brick wall.
Quebec Steelworkers went on strike at Ciment Lafarge and at refractory brick maker Resco to resist such changes and were poised to strike at ArcelorMittal before the company withdrew its concessionary demands.
Quebec law already bans discriminatory, two-tier wage schemes. At its 2015 convention, Quebec's Liberal Party passed a resolution to also ban two-tier pension plans, but the Liberal government has yet to act on its own policy.
"The Steelworkers have been fighting against two-tier pension plans for several years. We are asking that legislation be finally introduced to prohibit such discrimination, as happened with wages in 2001," Masse said.
"ABI needs to be aware that it is heading straight into a wall with its demands. Steelworkers before us fought for these rights and we are ready to follow in their footsteps. The current economic climate is particularly favourable to aluminum producers that are reaping huge profits. This should be reflected in the working and living standards of their employees," he added.
In addition to discriminatory pension demands, negotiations at the ABI smelter have also stalled over the company's opposition to seniority rights for employees, particularly with respect to widespread job transfers and mobility issues expected in coming years as hundreds of new workers are hired.
The existing collective agreement at the smelter is set to expire on Nov. 22.
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, 514-774-4001, [email protected]