Breakdown in Labor Negotiations Leads to Lockout at Québec Aluminium Smelter ABI

Breakdown in Labor Negotiations Leads to Lockout at Québec Aluminium Smelter ABI

Two potlines at Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) in Québec now stand idle after an impasse in labor negotiations motivated the plant’s management to lock out its union workforce.

According to a union source quoted by Platts, “there is electricity in the plant but no production” at the 450-thousand-metric-ton-per-annum smelter.

The plant’s co-owner Alcoa Corporation elaborated, stating that the plant “began operating the facility today at reduced capacity,” and that the union employees at the site “will remain locked out of the facility until further notice. One of three potlines will be operated by management employees.”

Labor and management at the plant have been at loggerheads for several months now, unable to reach agreement on a labor contract to replace the compact that expired at the stroke of midnight on November 22. The most recent attempt at reaching an agreement was soundly defeated on Wednesday, with four out of five union members voting to reject the proposed contract.

“So far metal is staying in the pot, but there is no casting at the cast house,” explained the unnamed union source. He continued by saying that around 100 entered the plant despite the lockout and took up residence in the plant’s cafeteria.

Alcoa defended the plant’s actions, asserting that offered contract was far and away superior to the majority of labor contracts in the province.

“ABI negotiated in good faith and made every effort to obtain a satisfactory agreement for the business and its 1,035 union employees. The best and final offer from management was very competitive, among the best in the manufacturing sector in Quebec, both in terms of wages and benefits. The company’s best and final offer included competitive pay and benefits with a retirement program that far exceeds what is offered by many other employers.”

ABI is a joint venture between Alcoa, who owns 75 percent of the plant, and Rio Tinto Alcan, owner of the remaining 25 percent. The plant features 720 pots distributed among three installed potlines, making it the second largest aluminium smelter on the continent.